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cityofsedonalogo.gifSedona City Council tightened its financial belt last week after feeling heat to be fiscally responsible.
By Trista Steers
Larson Newspapers

Sedona City Council tightened its financial belt last week after feeling heat to be fiscally responsible.

After over 13 hours of budget work sessions Wednesday, Thursday and Friday May 2 to 4, council still hasn’t raked through all of the figures in City Manager Eric Levitt’s proposed budget.

Line item after line item, council carefully evaluated each department’s spending before plunging into capital fund cuts and wastewater projects.

“It looks like everyone’s trying to be as prudent as possible,” Councilman Ramon Gomez said.

Last week’s three-day session extended to a fourth, Wednesday, May 9, to finish things up.

During the initial three sessions, council proposed cutting nearly $360,000 from the general fund budget and another

approximately $779,000 from the capital fund budget. Council didn’t make cuts to the wastewater capital fund budget but it is still up for discussion Wednesday.

“It’s not as gloomy as when you first looked at it,” Levitt told council at the end of Friday’s session.

General fund reductions came from cutting money out of department budgets. Council only slightly reduced the proposed budget from $12.56 million to approximately $12.5 million.

Council proposed cutting about $5,250 from its own budget. Cancellation of council’s subscription to the Sedona Red Rock News, reductions in auto expense and gasoline allowance and eliminating the council photo saved money.

The holiday party budget was proposed to be cut as well by $3,500 to bring the total to $10,000. Council and city staff received complaints after last year’s party — which honors volunteers — for the amount of money spent.

Mayor Pud Colquitt said the city needs to do something for volunteers, but maybe not a holiday party.

Councilman Harvey Stearn agreed that council needs to make cuts when balancing a deficit. Stearn suggested hosting a lunch rather than dinner party to keep costs down.

Other council members were reluctant, stating it is the one time of year the city thanks volunteers.

“There’s something nice about a having a nice dinner,” Gomez said.

Other proposed departmental reductions included $12,500 from the city manager’s budget, $25,000 from legal and $5,000 from general services, among others.

Council slashed the proposed capital fund budget from $16.2 million to $15.4 million by reducing projects or moving them to future years.

The altered capital budget also helped the city’s five-year plan by bringing the fund into surplus, rather than deficit, in Fiscal Year 2011-12.

Major cuts included $300,000 from a space assessment implementation and $250,000 for restriping Hwy. 89A with bike lanes.

Originally, $650,000 was budgeted for the space assessment implementation to shift a few departments to give information technology more space.

Councilwoman Nancy Scagnelli said $650,000 is too much. Other council members agreed.

Bike lane funds were cut from the FY 2007-08 budget but not eliminated completely.

According to Levitt, Arizona Department of Transportation planned an overlay project for Hwy. 89A in West Sedona — the missing bicycle link in Sedona — but the project is still five to six years out.

If the city wants to restripe bike lanes now, it would actually cost closer to $400,000.

The city should just wait for ADOT to repair the road and have ADOT pay for it, Scagnelli said.

Councilman Rob Adams agreed it didn’t make sense to restripe and then have ADOT overlay a few years later.

Any construction on Hwy. 89A also shouldn’t start until the Hwy. 179 Improvement Project is complete, Councilman John Bradshaw added.

The wastewater capital budget remained at Levitt’s proposed $14.1 million.

The budget also allocates $1.175 million in FY 2007-08 to an odor reduction project aimed at eliminating the stench west of Sedona on Hwy. 89A. In FY 2006-07, the city spent $66,541 on the project.

Colquitt asked City Engineer Charles Mosley if he could guarantee the project will work. Mosley said he can’t make that kind of guarantee but the chances of alleviating the smell look better than in the past.

“There’s no solve-all solution,” Levitt said.

Council resumes budget discussions Wednesday and will publish a tentative budget Friday, May 11.

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