Friday, December 12, 2008

Sedona mulls mid-year budget; spares arts & historic preservation

[Source: Cyndy Hardy,] -- Sedona is weathering the economic storm better than many Arizona cities; but not without concern and not without tightening its belt. The Sedona City Council approved some reductions Tuesday that mainly affect unspent but budgeted expenditures. For now, city employees and some outside organizations that receive city grants avoided the chopping block. That could change early next year if the economy doesn’t improve.

In the best worst-case scenario, the city expects to tap the city’s approximately $10 million rainy day fund by about $500,000; which is about five percent of the general fund reserves, according to Interim City Manager Alison Zelms.  The council showed little resistance to the possibility considering the long-term economic forecast. “Having a reserve fund just to worship rather that to use is missing the point,” said Councilman Cliff Hamilton. “This is exactly what it’s there for.”

The current cuts affect the city’s general fund.  The City Council trimmed the general fund in October when it reduced the budget for the redevelopment plan by $300,000. At Tuesday’s meeting, the council added cuts for departmental non-salary expenditures that will reduce expenditures without cutting city staff. Most city departments historically spend between three and five percent below their annual budget. The council’s action increased that target to 10 percent below budget, including a 25-percent reduction in training and travel costs. The council froze spending of about $300,000 remaining in the contingency fund; hiring for unfilled positions; and filling new positions approved in this year’s budget including an environmental inspector, a part-time IT position, and two part-time parking attendants.

Since tourism is down, the council deferred $16,500 for a visitor intercept study that may prove more useful in the long run when the economy rebounds.  The City Council rejected a recommendation to cut city grants already budgeted to arts and historic preservation organizations.  “I think the concern is that many of the arts organizations have already budgeted and are anticipating for this money to come in.  To do it now seems a bit unfair,” said Mayor Rob Adams.  But the city may have to reduce its grants programs in the next fiscal year. The council advised them to plan accordingly.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]