Council approves $16.7 million tentative budget

Fund sweep from Spur Cross 1/2 percent sales tax to General Fund, not new
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CAVE CREEK – During Call to the Public, Anna Marsolo quoted from a 2002 Sonoran News editorial by Publisher Don Sorchych regarding the town’s complaint-driven system to enforce code violations.

Marsolo, who stated she was unable to find it anywhere in the town’s ordinances, said, “Maybe Ian or Carrie can tell me where complaint-driven system is in the ordinance.”

prashant ram and mark gardnerMark Gardner (right, on right) and Prashant Ram, engineers with Applied Pavement Technology provided a presentation of Micropaver, a paving program the town had previously authorized to track the condition of the town’s roads and maintenance requirements using PCI (Pavement Condition Index) a method for quantifying road pavement conditions developed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in the late 1980s or early 1990s.

Based on road condition surveys, Gardner said the program will assist the town with making budget projections over a five-year period.

He said they will be training town staff on how to use the program with the goal of making the town self-sufficient.

He said the program will get better with time as it will have more data to pull from in its analysis.

According to Gardner, a road with a PCI of 65-70 can still be preserved utilizing preventative maintenance such as fog seal or slurry seal, which is less expensive.

He said it looks like the town can maintain the current condition of its roads with a budget of $800,000 per year and will see an improvement with a budget of $1 million per year.

He said if the town were to only spend $500,000 per year on maintenance the PCI will most likely drop 10-11 points.

In addressing a question from Councilman Charles Spitzer, who was appearing telephonically, Gardner said repairing the worst first approach is the least cost effective method and cautioned the program is only a tool and not intended to be used in lieu of management decisions.

He said the goal is to manage more extensive repairs with maintenance.

Gardner said the program is only as good as what is entered and the program’s objective is to bring roads up to a maximum PCI but the town would have to make priority decisions.

The presentation was a non action item.

Council voted unanimously to authorize the purchase of 10,000 gallons of fog seal at a cost of $21,685 as part of the town’s preventative maintenance program.

According to Town Engineer Wayne Anderson the fog seal is rubberized and a proven product.

Council also voted unanimously to approve an expenditure of $398,899 for mill and pave work on Cave Creek Road, which Anderson said would be piggy-backing on Carefree’s paving project for cost savings.

Anderson said the last time he received a quote for the work it was for approximately $600,000 so this would be a savings of around $200,000.

Bunch, who moved to approve the item, said, “That stretch of Cave Creek Road is embarrassing to drive on.”

Council voted 6-1, with Councilman McGuire dissenting, to approve the second reading of an ordinance on fences and walls that eliminates the permit requirement for certain non-earth retaining fences and walls.

By a vote of 5-2, with Mayor Vincent Francia and Councilman Mike Durkin dissenting, council approved the second reading of a sign ordinance pertaining to sandwich signs, which allows one per business to be out during that business’ days/hours of operation.

Durkin stated he had a real hard time catering to someone’s displeasure of having to look at something as they drive by.

While Francia stated Vice Mayor Adam Trenk crafted a “wonderful compromise” he said, like Durkin, he has a problem telling people how to run their business.

He said this was about aesthetics and it’s not government’s job to regulate.

Council voted unanimously to adopt the new non-utility development fee schedule.

Cordwell said the water and wastewater capacity charges will be coming forward separately.

During public comment, Terry Smith stated the town’s development fees were already really high and asked how much the new fees would increase them.

Planning Director Ian Cordwell said the new fees were significant decreases.

Councilman Reg Monachino said, “Suppose they went from $192 to $100,” and stated he was thinking about making the town more competitive.

Trenk disagreed and because the reductions were in the 20-30 percent range he said the amount for parks and trails was fairly nominal.

Francia said he sat in on the last Open Space Committee meeting and brought back, for discussion purposes only, council’s previous decision to take the excess of the 1/4 cent sales tax collected for maintenance of Spur Cross Conservation Area after paying Maricopa County $18,000 per month and transferring 50 percent of that excess into the General Fund and 50 percent into a new account for the acquisition of open space.

If council did nothing, the money would sit in an account dedicated for maintenance of Spur Cross and could not be used for any other purpose.

During public comment, Tom O’Reilly, who serves on the Open Space Committee, said although the town paid off the loan early, the 1/2 percent tax made the town less competitive and now there was an abundance of money for Spur Cross.

He said, “Just because something you did was legal, doesn’t mean it was right.

O’Reilly asked council to “stop, pause and rethink this whole issue” and “cut the tax.”

anna marsaloMarsolo (r) asked if it had been over 30 days since council voted to reallocate the funds, stating citizens could file a referendum.

However, Town Attorney Fredda Bisman said it was over 30 days.

Desert Foothills Land Trust (DFLT) Sonia Perillo encouraged the town to dedicate 100 percent of the excess to open space conservation and stated the town has a joint account with DFLT with about a $100,000 balance dedicated solely to the acquisition of open space.

David Smith said he sees this as a wants versus needs issue and stated the town has needs today – roads, wastewater and water infrastructure.

Despite Francia saying the agenda item was originally posted and noticed like all agenda items, Marsolo said she didn’t recall hearing about it.

She said, “It’s no skin off your back to bring it back for a public hearing.”

Ron Iverson said he couldn’t fathom putting money in an open space fund when the town is in debt.

Jeremy Welsh said open space was the platform for the entire community and it was unconscionable to take money voted on for one thing and use it for something else.

He said, “I agree with Tom O’Reilly, what you’re doing is morally wrong.”

Bisman clarified the sales tax was not voted on by citizens. It was voted in solely by council.

Terry Smith said the town needed to start planning for open space now and start putting money away.

Melanie Williams said council needed to stop spending money on items not budgeted and frivolous, stating Cave Creek voters never wanted that money to go to the General Fund.

Korina Riggin said 100 percent should go toward open space.

Francia had Finance Director Weddigen explain where the money came from and asked how much the 1/2 percent tax generated annually.

Weddigen said it was between $700,000 and $800,000.

Trenk explained the funds approved by council were in excess of its specific purpose and if they rescinded the ordinance as some had requested, the money would just sit in an account and couldn’t be used.

He said “It doesn’t require all this hysteria.”

Thomas McGuire said citizens expressed their desire for open space to be the town’s commitment.

Monachino said, “In a perfect world, I’d say put it toward open space. It’s not a perfect world – we’re $56 million in debt.”

Council voted separately on the transfer of two budget items, which included $400,000 from the 1/2 cent tax previously approved by this council for the current budget year to the General Fund.

Marsolo asked if council’s action was referable.

Bisman said it was not and that it was an administrative act.

Marsolo reiterated what Trenk said was a former council’s action to sweep $400,000 into the General Fund.

However, the current council approved the budget that included the $400,000 sweep.

In fact, council voted to do the same thing when Trenk was on council previously.

Council voted unanimously to transfer the $400,000.

Council voted 6-1, with McGuire dissenting, to transfer 50 percent of $1,987,702 excess funds, less the $400,000, into the General Fund for the purpose of maintenance and capital improvement infrastructure projects with the other 50 percent going into the open space acquisition account.

Francia said voting to put 100 percent toward open space was not a good decision for the community at this time.

Bunch said the town needs to separate wants and needs.

Spitzer stated it would be irresponsible of the town not to maintain its infrastructure.

Town Manager Peter Jankoski asked to add three things to the $16.7 million tentative budget, which included $7,000 for additional election expense for the recall, $7,000 to add declaratory injunctive relief back into the town’s risk insurance policy and $10,000 for town hall renovations.

Bunch asked if they could add $20,000 back into the budget for community grants to bring it back up to $30,000. He said they didn’t have to spend it.

There seemed to be some consensus that the town needed to review its staffing needs as well as its criteria for providing community grants.

Concerns were raised about providing the Cave Creek Merchants Chamber of Commerce with money for Fiesta Days only for them to donate some of that money to various charities of their choice.

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