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12:51 PM Mon, Oct. 15th

Tarkowski: 'Darkest days are behind us' as new budget year nears

PRESCOTT VALLEY - The Great Recession appears to be on its way out as town government officials craft a budget that is likely to be about $5.3 million smaller than the budget for 2010-2011.

Town Manager Larry Tarkowski concluded with an upbeat note while reading from a handwritten statement to the Town Council Wednesday during the budget workshop.

"We believe the darkest days are behind us as we collectively chart the future course for success and prosperity in Prescott Valley," he said.

Tarkowski, who has worked for the town since 1989 and has been at the helm since 2004, veered slightly from the three-page statement that appears in the draft budget binder for the 2011-2012 fiscal year, which begins July 1. Tarkowski and department heads wrapped up Wednesday's session in two hours - an hour and a half less than the allotted time.

The Management Services staff has prepared a budget that exceeds $66.9 million for 2011-2012. It amounts to a 40 percent drop from the $111.5 million budget from 2007-2008, according to Tarkowski's printed statement.

Since that budget year, town officials have carried out a number of austerity measures because they anticipated a drop in revenues. Those measures have included a hiring freeze and closing town offices on Fridays.

The draft budget that staff Tarkowski and staff discussed Wednesday followed a council retreat in October, an open house with the community in December and a second retreat in January, Tarkowski said.

He said projects for the new fiscal year will include completion of the widening project for Robert Road from Spouse Drive to Tranquil Boulevard, replacing two police vehicles and an update for the General Plan.

The town also will save money on electricity by installing solar panels, Tarkowski said. He added austerity measures will continue with the closures of the library on Mondays, the Civic Center on Fridays and the swimming pool at Mountain Valley Park on Sundays during the summer.

Tarkowski said the 5 percent pay cuts brought about by cutting hours for non-exempt employees to 38 hours per week will remain in effect, while adding town employees will receive a 3 percent cash payout. Sworn police officers are exempt from the pay cut.

The number of town employees has dropped 22 percent from 262 in 2008-09 to 205 currently, Management Services Director Bill Kauppi said.

Kauppi projects $52.9 million in revenues in 2011-2012, a 7.8 percent drop; cash reserves will bring the total budget to $66.9 million. He used a PowerPoint presentation to compare sales tax revenues and other figures in the budget over the past few fiscal years.

Construction sales tax revenues will drop from $4.5 million in 2006-2007 to an estimated $430,000 in 2011-2012, he said. They accounted for 39 percent of all sales tax revenues in 2006-2007.

However, Kauppi said the projected sales tax revenues of $11.2 million for 2011-2012 would be higher than in 2010-2011 if construction sales tax revenues were taken out of the equation.

Projected spending will include more than $23 million for operations, nearly $14.7 million for personnel services, and more than $8.3 million apiece for capital outlay and debt service, according to the budget binder.

Also making presentations on the budget were Magistrate Keith Carson, Community Development Director Richard Parker, Parks and Recreation Director Brian Witty, Interim Police Chief Bill Fessler and Town Clerk Diane Russell.

The council will vote on the tentative budget May 19 and adopt the final one June 23.