Pool closure and furloughs a no-go

Citizens line hallway as budget issues remain

Herberta Schroeder/Courtesy<br /><br /><!-- 1upcrlf2 -->People gathered Tuesday to voice their opinions and hear what Council had to say regarding potential budget modifications. So many people showed up that many were forced to line up in the hallway and lobby.

Herberta Schroeder/Courtesy<br /><br /><!-- 1upcrlf2 -->People gathered Tuesday to voice their opinions and hear what Council had to say regarding potential budget modifications. So many people showed up that many were forced to line up in the hallway and lobby.

KINGMAN - Concerned citizens filled every seat in Council chambers Tuesday and even more lined the hallway leading up to the room. Many were there to listen, others were there to speak and nearly all were there to see if City Council meant to impose furloughs on city employees and close the downtown pool.

As it turned out, Council did neither.

Over a month ago, Council asked city staff to come up with a list of potential budget modifications in hopes of finding a way to replenish the city's depleted Highway User Revenue Fund. The list of possible cuts included furlough days for city employees and the closure of the downtown pool.

Within minutes of the budget modification agenda item opening, Councilwoman Janet Watson said Council already went through these ideas during the months-long budget process and argued that there was no reason to go through them again. She then made a motion to strike down all the possible cuts.

However, before Council could vote, Mayor John Salem allowed the people who signed up to speak to voice their opinions, albeit with a shortened 2-minute time limit.

City employees made up the bulk of the speakers standing in solidarity against work furloughs while several people complained about the ramifications of closing the downtown pool.

They spoke of employee morale and what it means to the city; they spoke of wide-spread price increases versus their wages staying the same; and they argued that attempting to address budget woes on the backs of more than 300 city employees is irresponsible.

Kingman Police Department Detective Dennis Gilbert, who's also the president of the local police officers association, said city employees swallowing another cut while the rest of the city does not is simply unfair.

Harley Pettit, a member of Residents Against Irresponsible Development, said to round sales tax up to 9 percent, which would be a 0.15-percent increase, and swap the estimated $787,000 in revenue it would raise for the potential savings from budget modifications. Council should be thinking long-term instead of contemplating short-term "Band-Aid" fixes, Pettit said.

Local hotel owner Herberta Schroeder voiced a similar opinion when she said, "(The state) cannot take away our own revenue sources."

She cannot envision city employees taking more cuts than they already have. If the goal is to "make the city work," then city employees are an integral part, she said.

People who were against the closure of the downtown pool said it provides one of the few things for Kingman's youth to do, won't save nearly enough money to justify the closure and suggested possibly using the surrounding fencing for advertising.

"I feel like everyone overreacted," Vice Mayor Robin Gordon said after nearly everyone had spoke. "Just talking about something doesn't mean we're going to do it."

The gathered crowd didn't like her comment and responded with several angry voices speaking at once, and one person said, "It's because it's not your job we're talking about."

Still, Gordon explained that despite having a balanced budget, huge unfunded areas remain, and the city needs to find money in order to fix its roads. Surrounding cities are laying people off; this is just a discussion, she said.

There was never a revenue problem until the state slipped its hand into Kingman's pocket, Councilman Keith Walker said. If Kingman would like to be the armpit of Arizona, then continue as is, he suggested.

"(Otherwise,) let's put this thing to bed and find a revenue source," Walker said.

At that point, the motion to strike down all the modification options in the agenda unanimously passed, and a good portion of the gathered people funneled out the door.

Revenue Streams

Later in the evening, Finance Director Coral Loyd gave a presentation on revenue sources. It showed, among other things, that the city's HURF balance dropped from nearly $900,000 in 2007 to under $300,000 this year.

Loyd also showed how much the city pays to run several departments. Keep in mind that these are all estimates for the 2011-2012 fiscal year. It will cost the city $79,000 to operate the golf course if play and revenue estimates are accurate, $304,000 to operate the two pools, $1.5 million for the city's parks, almost $1 million for Kingman's court, $588,679 for planning and zoning and $263,168 for building inspection.

Any way it's sliced, Kingman's general fund expenses exceed revenue, Loyd said.

"We have an issue," she added.

She also showed the amount of revenue that could be brought in under several different options. A 2-percent restaurant and bar tax could bring in an estimated $1.7 million while 0.5-percent city sales tax increase would possibly generate $2.6 million. Also, she showed that a primary property tax of $2 per $1,000 of assessed value could raise $5 million and possibly fund the fire department.

Loyd explained that she was not for or against any of the options, but was merely arming Council with the information needed to make revenue decisions.

Once Loyd was done, Councilman Richard Anderson challenged people to find five incorporated cities or tows with fewer taxes than Kingman. There's no city income tax, food tax or primary house tax, Anderson said.

With that in mind, Watson made a motion for city staff to create a resolution for Council to vote on for a 2-percent restaurant and bar tax, with half going to HURF and the other half to the general fund.

The reasoning behind dividing the possible tax centers on the fact that if all of it is allocated to HURF, then it can be used for nothing but street repairs. However, the portion allocated to the general fund can still go to streets if need be, Salem explained.

Gordon said the only way she can support the tax is if Council gets information from restaurant and bar owners about impact and if more cuts are applied to the budget.

Council then approved Watson's motion to look at a bar and restaurant tax.

In other business, Council voted to delete the zoning ordinance that governs sound and is based on qualitative standards. This was done in order to remove confusion, as KPD follows a different code that uses 10-7 p.m. quiet hours and a reasonable person standard to regulate noise. A reasonable person standard refers to what a reasonable person should expect at given locations or events. For example, people can expect rock music at a rock concert and peace and quiet in a residential neighborhood after 10 p.m.

If Council chooses to do so, it can request that staff come up with new qualitative standards that meet the city's needs.

The code KPD follows was changed as well. Now, quiet hours are to be followed regardless of a special use permit, which had made permitted events exempt prior to the change.

Noise enforcement will continue to be complaint-based, KPD Chief Robert Devries said. That means that "noisy" events may continue past 10 p.m. as long as KPD receives no complaints.