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10:29 AM Thu, Jan. 17th

Prescott Council considers budget additions

PRESCOTT - The Elks Opera House would be among the beneficiaries of a list of budget additions currently under consideration by the Prescott City Council.

At its study session on Tuesday, the council heard a presentation from Budget and Finance Director Mark Woodfill on the city's preliminary 2009/2010 budget.

Central to the discussion was a list of budget "reconciliation" points that came up during and after the council's May 21 budget workshop.

The list includes $639,622 worth of proposed budget additions, which council members discussed during their all-day workshop, along with a number of other adjustments.

The largest additional expenditure would take place in the downtown Elks theater, which is undergoing a $1.6 million renovation this summer.

If the council approves the adjusted budget, the city would cover the $256,000 cost of a fire sprinkler system in the 104-year-old building, as well as the $72,372 cost to restore the building's marquee.

The cost estimates for the work generated a question from Councilman Bob Bell, who pointed out that the city has yet to come to an agreement with the project contractor on the cost of the Elks renovations.

When city staff members pointed out that the costs were estimates that the project architect supplied, and that the total cost of the project was still up for negotiation with the contractor, Bell added, "I don't want the construction manager at risk to think he has latitude now, knowing we've set this aside in the budget."

The bulk of the money for the Elks renovation will come from the Elks Opera House Foundation, which received a $1 million donation in late 2008 from the Harold James Family Trust to do much of the historic restoration work necessary to bring the theater back to its 1905 grandeur.

Other projects on the list of budget additions included:

• $200,000 for Federal Aviation Administration-mandated projects.

• $75,000 for an automated parking fee collection system for the city's lake parks.

Parks and Recreation Director Debbie Horton explained that the city currently charges a $2 fee for parking at Goldwater, Willow and Watson lakes, but that only about one in three park users actually pays the fees through the existing honor system.

The new system would provide the park users with a receipt, which they would put on their car dashes, Horton said. Members of the new park ranger program then could check for compliance.

Councilman Jim Lamerson - while he said he appreciated the attempt at holding people accountable - said he still was "skeptical that this is going to help a lot."

• $30,000 of bed tax money to Sharlot Hall Museum to help with tourism-related activities.

• $6,250 of bed tax money for the Prescott Creeks Preservation Association.

Woodfill said the money for the Elks improvements and the FAA-mandated projects would come from the city's capital improvement fund, which received a replenishment this year after an earlier agreement involving a $5 million city contribution to a hotel/conference center project along Highway 69 fell through because of the ailing economy.

Along with the council-directed budget additions, the reconciliations also included $786,648 of other adjustments involving matters such as budget carryovers from the previous year and adjustments for inter-fund transfers.

The council will vote on adopting its tentative budget on June 9, with a public hearing for the final budget adoption likely occurring on June 23. The new fiscal year begins on July 1.