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NOTE:

IN ACCORDANCE WITH PROVISIONS OF THE ARIZONA REVISED STATUTES AND THE FLAGSTAFF CITY CHARTER, THE SUMMARIZED MINUTES OF CITY COUNCIL MEETING ARE NOT VERBATIM TRANSCRIPTS.  ONLY THE ACTIONS TAKEN AND DISCUSSIONS APPEARING WITHIN QUOTATION MARKS ARE VERBATIM.  AUDIO RECORDINGS OF CITY COUNCIL MEETINGS ARE ON FILE IN THE CITY CLERK’S OFFICE.

 

SUMMARIZED MINUTES

JOINT CITY COUNCIL

AND CITIZENS’ BUDGET TASK FORCE

WORK SESSION

 

November 19, 2010

8:00 a.m.

 

A joint meeting of the Flagstaff City Council and the Citizens’ Budget Task Force was held on Friday, November 19, 2010, convening at 8:07 a.m. in the Council Conference Room at City Hall, 211 West Aspen Avenue, Flagstaff, Arizona.

 

CALL TO ORDER

 

The meeting was called to order by Mayor Presler.

 

1.      ROLL CALL

 

The following were present:

 

 

Mayor Presler

 

Vice Mayor Barotz

Councilmember Babbott

Councilmember Brewster Councilmember Evans

Councilmember Overton

Councilmember White

 

Chairperson Paul Turner

 

Vice-Chairperson Mike Souris

Kurt Fenske

Kathrin Fox

Lee Harsh

Blake Nabours

Joe Ray

 

Also present were:

 

 

Kevin Burke, City Manager

Rosemary Rosales, City Attorney

 

Budget Direction

 

After participating and observing the Council budget retreat of the previous day, individual task force members roundtabled their ideas and thoughts with the City Council.

 

The local economy is lagging and the City organization should focus on survival.  Any light at the end of the tunnel will take several years to reach.  Unanimously, task force members cautioned that the legislature would not keep its word and that it would eliminate its funding to cities in order to solve their own budget deficit. 

 

The City should plan for the worst and budget lean and mean with any priority being the restoration of the fund balance.  The City also needs to take steps to restore faith in local government.  Job growth must be encouraged to keep young people in Flagstaff.

 

The members felt unanimously that the City should plan for a 25% cut.  If state-shared revenues evaporate, huge cuts will have to be made.  Choices will have to be made about what is realistic and that means everything is on the table.  Engaging the community in that discussion could be facilitated by e-mails which are quick and easy, in conjunction with a media blitz.  A few direct, clear questions with yes and no or multiple choice answers would be best.  The high schools are another good place to start.  An innovation efficiency task force may be another effective tool.  Telephone is another method of communication, as is the local newspaper and local organizations.  It also might be possible to use reverse 911 calls. 

 

Additional ideas for the budget included:

 

·       

More support for emerging technologies through the Northern Arizona Center for Emergency Technologies

 

·       

Moving one-time expenses.

 

·       

Rewarding divisions for saving money

 

·       

No market raise for employees

 

·       

Full cost recovery on user fees

 

·       

Use taxes

 

·       

Privatization of some city services and contracting out for others.

 

The Mayor directed that Russ Yelton be contacted to provide additional information from NACET that can be distributed to the Budget Task Force.

 

The discussion turned to large fire engines that respond to every emergency.  Because the City can’t maintain two vehicles at each station, typically only the big engines response.  The advantqage to this is that they are then prepared to respond from that location to another call if one comes in.  Another advantage is the manpower needed to carry people, lift them onto gurneys, and load the gurney into the emergency vehicle while the medical responders are monitoring and treating the patient.  Guardian has three locations from which to respond and Fire has seven.  Consequently, Fire can typically respond faster to a call.

 

As to privatization and contracting out servfices, there is an inherent difference between a private model and a public sector service driven attitude.  The City shouldn’t be made into a bottom line business model, although relevant accounting and best practices should be used.  The Council and the organization are responsible to citizens and not shareholders.  A business model would create a different interaction with citizens.  Outsourcing doesn’t always mean cheaper services.  Point in fact is that public water utilities far outpace Flagstaff in billing rates.  The City should look at outsourcing and user fees because it makes sense and then understand the consequences of those decisions.

 

With snow removal last year, the City had to draw from contingency to pay for it because of the record snowfall.  The demand from the public is to buy more plows and equipment, but there is a pricetag.  Budget reductions this year mean reductions in service levels and it will be important to ask the community what it is willing to sacrifice.  In the last two years, the City has cut $25 million from its budget and more than 100 employees.  Because cuts will all be at the service level, feedback is important.  Community tolerance for cuts will be critical.

 

It is important not cut money in areas that make money for the community and the organization, even if they are subsidized.  The City subsidizes many programs where people aren’t paying their way, because they couldn’t otherwise afford it.  Without competititve salaries, employees cannot afford to live in Flagstaff. 

 

Mayor Presler asked for a list of programs, commodities, and services funded through the general fund so that the community can identify where they’re willihg to cut.

 

Putting a burden on the City to communicate with everyone may not be realistic.  The City does need to reach out to its citizenry, but citizens are also individually responsible.  If they want to  be engaged, they will be.  In such difficult economic times, it is important have realistic expectations.

 

For the third year in a row, the City is looking at cutting its budget.  When talking about reduction in services, people have to talk about what they can sacrifice.  People view the notion of basic services differently.  A diverse crosscut of the community is needed for that feedback.  Specific user fees have specific effects.  When building fees were raised, the industry came forward and said they would go out of business at 100% cost recovery.  Any more than the building industry can afford to pay 100% cost recovery, people can’t afford 100% cost recovery on recreation. 

 

The task force has a broad challenge.  It and the Council will work together as a team to find solutions and there will be future conversations.  The items raised by the Council and Task Force will be discussed in more detail keeping in mind that there is a cost to almost all of them.   Based on the discussions, the Council will then make the best decisions possible for the most people possible and present a balanced and thoughtful budget for FY2011..

 

The City Manager will proceed with developing a budget with caution, understanding that a use tax and user fees are not on the table for this budget.  Budgets will be prepared within a 5% swing, while planning for much worse and fighting for flat.  In February, the Council will have another retreat with specifics on what can be accomplished and what may not be able to be accomplished.

 

ADJOURNMENT.

 

The meeting adjourned at 10:18 a.m.