Raise issue prevents unanimous vote on new city budget

Jen Miles

Jen Miles

KINGMAN - Councilwoman Jen Miles remained the lone dissenter when the City Council approved its final budget for fiscal year 2015-2016 beginning July 1.

Miles cast the lone no vote when the Council approved the tentative budget at the May 5 meeting and she did so again May 19. Her objection regards a 3 percent across-the-board raise employees will receive effective July 1, and an additional 3 percent pay increase for certain other employees who earn as much after six years of service as do new employees.

Miles noted the state is looking at a huge deficit and cautioned the city about adding about $1 million to its payroll.

Miles at a previous meeting advocated for a 2.5 percent increase only for hourly employees in order to conduct a salary analysis that could help the Council determine which positions are most in need of a pay raise, if anyone's job title should be changed - and if any employees earn more than the regional average.

She repeated that message last week when the Council voted 6-1 to approve a new classification and compensation schedule in a separate item.

But the majority of the Council believes the city's more than 300 employees have gone far too long without a pay increase, about seven years, and as a result highly valued employees are leaving for greener pastures.

The final budget includes roughly $48 million out of about $165 million in appropriations for operating budgets, with the balance appropriated for capital projects, grants, internal transfers and debt service payments, according to Finance Director Tina Moline.

Moline said the city's final budget, thanks to voters passing home rule in last November's election, is about $9 million below the state's expenditure limitation for Kingman.

A big chunk of the appropriations - roughly $70 million out of the $165 million - was put in the budget for the planned Kingman Crossing and Rancho Santa Fe interstate interchanges. The money is not actually in the budget. The hope is that it soon will be.

Miles questioned the figure and Mayor Richard Anderson directed City Manager John Dougherty to provide an explanation of why the money was in the budget.

On Thursday, Dougherty sent out an email explaining the $70 million was put in due to public accounting protocols and federal grants the city is pursuing to fund the two interchanges.

"In public accounting, a public agency can only spend what has been appropriated for in its budget," said Dougherty. "If a public agency receives revenues - donations, loans, developer participation, taxes, etc. - at any time during the fiscal year and those revenues are not included in the adopted budget, the public agency cannot use them until they are appropriated for in a future budget."

The Council on May 5 voted unanimously to pursue federal TIGER grants that could be used to help fund one or both interchanges. "Since the TIGER grant will have a time line for expenditure of the money the city cannot afford to wait a year before the work begins or we risk losing the funding," said Dougherty.

In essence, the $70 million is not in the city's bank. The money is appropriated in the event Kingman is awarded grants. TIGER grants are dedicated to public works projects that have a meaningful impact on a city or region. The city has applied for TIGER grants for the past six years and has not yet been awarded one. The Council is hoping the seventh time is the charm.

The estimated cost to fund Kingman Crossing - insofar as the city's budget is concerned - is about $19.2 million. Mayor Richard Anderson has said the hope is to attract a developer who will pay for the interchange. Rancho Santa Fe, also known as Rattlesnake Wash, is significantly more expensive at more than $49 million.

Kingman Crossing is planned for retail. Rancho Santa Fe includes a plan to build a second road to the Kingman Airport and Industrial Park and possibly serve as an inland port entry. Kingman Crossing is not under consideration for either one of those goals.