Water Co. purchase adds big bucks to city budget

Cottonwood's plan to acquire three local water companies means municipal control over the resource and opportunities to mandate conservation.

It also means a much bigger budget.

For the upcoming fiscal year city Finance Director Rudy Rodriguez has had to create a budget with a big bottom line in order to cover the purchase, cost of the debt service and the maintenance and operations.

The water company acquisition project isn't the only thing happening in Cottonwood. Rodriguez had to account for a number of projects.

The city's department heads and administration have all gotten a chance to go over the budget in full. Council members got a look at it over three recent work sessions, Rodriguez said.

But, before council members saw the budget, department heads were asked to submit proposals for what they would need in order to stay at current levels.

Then they were asked to cut back.

"Over all we asked all the departments to cut back three percent," Rodriguez said.

Staff then presented a balanced budget to council members. They do so every year at about this time. The council is allowed to make any modifications to it they see fit.

This year the council requested an additional firefighter be hired, in addition to the one already budgeted for by staff.

Council also approved of two new police officers, to be hired in January and two transit drivers that will be hired depending on outside funding.

The budget allows for several city employees to be reclassified. Council members agreed that was appropriate, Rodriguez said.

"(Reclassifications) make sure that both the title and the responsibilities are right in line," he said.

He said that new titles don't necessarily mean pay raises, but it could put the employee at a higher salary range.

Last year, communities across the state were dealing with tight budgets. Arizona's legislators had a financial crunch of their own.

Rodriguez says the state's still struggling, but there is a nine-percent projected increase in state sales tax.

Cottonwood is a little more conservative with the local sales tax projections. Rodriguez said he budgeted for a six-percent increase in local tax collections.

Last year that particular revenue source, "took a nose dive," he said. But recently those collections have increased.

Other revenues including new fees and taxes have been discussed, Rodriguez said. But nothing has been decided on. He said the council may have a revenue work session sometime in the future.

"At this point we've talked about all kinds of fees," he said.

Last year the city budgeted for revenues from a proposed restaurant and bar tax. The tax never passed, but luckily they were able to absorb the non-existent earnings that were projected as revenue.

Even though local sales tax receipts are up, Rodriguez said none of the other revenues for the city are doing as well.

Costs the city can't control eat up any increases they may be seeing, he said.

Employee health care insurance went up 15 percent, Rodriguez said. Workmen's compensation went up too.

Overall, Rodriguez said the city's financial outlook is favorable.

"We're probably a little bit better off than last year," Rodriguez said.

The city's tentative budget is available for viewing at Cottonwood city hall, 827 N. Main St. Council members will be asked to consider the tentative budget at their July 6 council meeting. After that date, the budget's bottom line can not be changed. It will go before the council for final approval following the tentative approval.

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