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Thu, May 23

Prescott Valley voters to again decide on home rule budget option

PRESCOTT VALLEY – Voters will decide again this fall whether town officials can set their own budget priorities or if the town will follow a state-mandated budget.

Since 1981, the town’s voters have approved home rule for the town, granting an expanded budgeting ability to the Town Council.

“Voting for or against home rule has nothing to do with tax rates,” Deputy Town Manager Ryan Judy reminded attendees at the first of two public hearings April 14. “It will not increase or decrease any tax rates in Prescott Valley.”

Despite not impacting tax rates, the home rule option gives the town greater flexibility on how funds are allocated.

Voters in Prescott Valley have seen the home rule option on the ballot every four years for more than three decades. This year, it’s a little earlier, due to changes in state election laws that will put the question on the ballot Aug. 30.

Using the state-mandates funding formula, the town’s budget would be cut nearly in half – stripping more than $30 million each year.

Bill Kauppi, the town’s management services director reminded the public, “It pertains to budgeting. That’s all it involves is budgeting.”

If voters again approve the home rule option, the state’s formulas suggest the locally controlled budget will grow a little more than $1 million over the next four years to a sum of more than $77 million in 2020-21.

The town’s budget forecasts indicate the general fund will increase by about $1 million, with most of that increase paid through local taxes. However, that does not represent an increase in taxes, since the town’s population is conservatively predicted to grow at least 1,000 people over that same period.

Councilwoman Lora Lee Nye implored the community to again approve home rule, citing the budget reductions the town will face if voters reject it.

“I hope our citizens follow the vote as they have right along because, how dare they at the state tell us how to handle out budget,” she said. “They don’t even have current data to validate it.”

Her comments reflect a lack of up-to-date information within state offices.

The figures for projected increases in both budget and population are based on state formulas reflecting long-term trends, not necessarily the rapid growth the town experienced in the recent years.

Kauppi noted most growing communities in Arizona use the home rule option, as it gives local leaders added flexibility to budget for changing community needs.

On the flip side, if voters reject the option, the town will be required to adopt the lower state-mandated budget limits for two fiscal years, after which the town can again put the issue to voters for reauthorization.

A second public hearing will be part of the Town Council’s April 28 agenda, after which the council is expected to take action putting the matter on the August ballot.

“Hopefully council will approve the extension of the home rule,” Kauppi said.

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