Tags Articles tagged with "budget"


A committee is mapping out MUSD school calendars through graduation 2024.

When the Maricopa Unified School District Governing Board approved the 2019-20 budget Wednesday, it did so without the agreement of Board Member Patti Coutré.

She said some of the listed savings were coming on the backs of full-time substitutes. “I have a hard time with this,” she said.

“When this program was set up years ago, when we started the pilot program, it was successful,” Coutré said. “So much so that we put full-time subs in all our schools and two at the high school. If it’s working, I don’t understand why we have to pull it.”

Business Director Jason Harmon showed the district saving $1.07 million with changes to the budget, including $131,000 from altering the full-time substitutes program. The full-time substitutes had benefits through MUSD, but will now go through a third party, smartSchools, for appointments and benefits.

“I can’t put a dollar figure on a person,” Coutré said. “These are people that have been working for the district full-time with benefits, and now we’re going to say, ‘Hey, we need to save some money, so you can purchase benefits through smartSchools, and you can still sub, we’ll still call, but you’re not guaranteed a job anymore.’”

The full-time substitutes were told of the situation in May at a face-to-face meeting with Human Resources Director Tom Beckett after being asked to sign a “Notice of Appointment” in February for the upcoming school year.

Substitute teacher Idressa Calland felt it was a virtual breach of contract. “This is immoral, unjust and disheartening,” Calland said in the wake of that meeting.

On Wednesday, Beckett conceded it was late notice.

Budget Highlights

  • The primary tax rate will decrease from 4.1596 to 3.7908 this fiscal year.
    • The secondary tax rate will decrease from 3.0408 to 2.9675. Included in that secondary tax, a scheduled increase in the M&O override from 1.3261 to 1.3426 is counterbalanced by drops in Class B bonds from 1.2693 to 1.1968 and desegregation from 0.4454 to 0.4125.
    • Average teacher salaries are going up 6 percent. The average teacher salary will be $50,376.
    • The estimated reserve is $682,224.
    • Weighted student count is 10,024, up from 9,504.

“We have made the contingency that we are going to place each of those full-time subs that were with the district on top of the priority list for that individual school where they are at,” he told the governing board. “They will be first-placed when there is an opening at their school site.”

Beckett said there would not be a guarantee of 180 days, “but we’ll do our very, very best.”

While Calland said there was no illegality involved, she was not happy with the manner it occurred. She said the teachers should have been told in March.

“It’s just how they gave us contracts and let us go three days before school ended,” she said. “People lose sick time and opportunities to apply for open positions.”

Wednesday, Coutré questioned whether the district was actually saving $131,000 with the move. “Because my understanding is that these employees will be able to continue to work through smartSchools as subs. Basically, we’re still going to be paying them, but we’re going to be paying them through smartSchools. So, we’re still out that expenditure. The only thing we’re really saving would be the benefit costs that they are no longer receiving.”

However, Board Member Torri Anderson, a former teacher, supported the change.

“To have a full-time sub on each campus is a Cadillac model that we can’t afford to do when there are other things that we need to stretch our money to do,” Anderson said.

She said some of the substitutes were doing work other than substitute teaching in classrooms.

“If substitutes weren’t being used correctly, that seems to be a management issue and something that maybe the district needs to streamline,” Coutré said.

When Superintendent Tracey Lopeman explained approving the proposed budget was more about “form and format” rather than the details, which can be changed later before the final vote, Coutré said that was a moot point. The rest of the agenda, she said, included personnel and other expenditures.

“We’re spending the money,” she said.

The board voted 3-1 to approve the $50 million budget for FY20.

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Tuesday, Maricopa City Council unanimously approved its annual budget. The total expenditures of $105.7 million are a decrease from last fiscal year by $935,103.

General Fund revenues are budgeted at $34.6 million, with $11.8 million of that from sales tax. Much of the city’s revenue comes from property taxes.

City Tax Rate                               2019                  2018
Primary Property Tax Rate            4.7845                4.7845
Secondary Tax Rate                         1.1220                 1.1871
Total                                               5.9065              5.9716

Property Tax Levy Amounts
Primary Property Taxes                $12,544,974        $13,730,060
Secondary Property Taxes            $2,941,920          $3,406,624
Total                                              $15,486,894     $17,136,684

While the budget for fiscal year 1019-20 wasn’t controversial – members of the council have been hashing out the details of the plan for months – before voting on the measure, Councilwoman Julia Gusse questioned why the city is a member of a Canadian trade organization and not a Mexican trade group.

She said the city pays more than $14,000 annually to belong to the Canadian group but doesn’t pay $1,500 to belong to the Arizona-Mexico Commission.

After more than 15 minutes of discussion about the item that was not originally on the agenda, the final city budget was approved with an amendment to budget $1,500 to join the Arizona-Mexico Commission, if the city council approves it in the coming year. The matter is expected to come up on the next city council agenda June 18.

Council members also adopted the City of Maricopa Strategic Plan for the next two years. The Strategic Plan and is essentially an action plan to guide the city toward the 2040 Vision Plan, City Manager Rick Horst said.

The council also heard the second of two public hearings on a proposed Community Development Block Grant of $180,000 to install lighting and perform some neighborhood rehabilitation and revitalization in the Heritage District. The matter will come before the council one more time before the city will be allowed to apply for the federal grant.

In its consent agenda, the council endorsed the Pinal County I-11 Coalition’s support for the Federal Highway Administration and Arizona Department of Transportation’s Interstate 11 (see proposed routes) Tier 1 Environmental Impact Statement and Preliminary Evaluation.

The Council accepted public improvements and maintenance responsibility for all local internal streets within Parcel 19 of the Homestead North Subdivision into the City Street/Road Maintenance System.

They approved the Intergovernmental Agreement between the Arizona Department of Revenue and the City of Maricopa for the collection and administration of transaction privilege and affiliated excise taxes imposed by the City of Maricopa.

The council also recommended the approval to the Arizona Department of Liquor License and Control regarding an application submitted by Kim Kwiatkowski on behalf of Circle K Store at 41433 W. Honeycutt Road. The store already had a license for beer-and-wine sales.

A traffic signal at the intersection of Honeycutt Road and White and Parker Road is part of the capital improvement list in the tentative budget. The intersection is currently a four-way stop.

Maricopa City Council approved a nearly $106 million budget for the coming year at its regular meeting Tuesday.

The final annual city budget will be examined in June.

City Manager Rick Horst unveiled the tentative budget, showing it is filled with nearly $34 million in capital projects. Many of those have been on the city’s “wish list” for many years.

Horst said the general fund budget is $48.4 million and the capital projects budget is at $33.95 million. The Copper Sky budget is now part of the general fund.

There have also been numerous budgets consolidated. Horst said the city revenue projections in the coming budget do not include anticipated growth in sales tax collection due to anticipated construction. Rather, projections are based on history, not anticipation.

Horst also said primary property tax rates will remain unchanged, but he cautioned if valuations increase, people will be paying more in total taxes. Valuations are set by the county.

The 2019-20 budget is nearly $1 million less than the current year’s budget. For the first time in the city’s history the budget will establish an asset-replacement fund and it sets aside additional funds in support of self-insured losses in the event of a disaster.

Some of the major capital improvement projects Horst unveiled Tuesday include:

  • The new library construction in fiscal year 2019-20.
  • The repurposing of the existing library as a senior and veteran center.
  • A “monument sign” to welcome people entering the city on SR 347.
  • The synchronization of traffic signals on State Route 347 in city limits.
  • A flood-warning system.
  • An SR 347 truck by-pass study.
  • The extension of Bowlin Road and the addition of a crossing.
  • The renovations of Heritage Park.
  • A Santa Cruz Wash flood control solution that will open thousands of acres of land for development.
  • A traffic light at White & Parker and Honeycutt Road.
  • The widening of Smith-Enke Road and Chase Drive to White & Parker Road.
  • Improvements on Pershing Road.
  • A crossing on the Rancho El Dorado Wash north.

The council unanimously approved the tentative budget and will examine the city’s final budget at the June 4 meeting.

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The Aquatic Center is a large portion of the expenditures at Copper Sky. Photo by Mason Callejas


For the past 15 years, city councilmembers, city managers, planners and other administrators have emphasized different areas of growth and identity in an attempt to put Maricopa “on the map.”

Parks & Rec Debt Service
Voter approved 2008 for $65.5 million
Paid through secondary property tax
Started Jan. 1, 2014 at 3%
Ends July 1, 2030 at 6.335%
Ak-Chin grant $7.4 million ($1.48 million annually) ends July 1, 2019
Rate of return: 65%

In 2008, a major move was made to bolster that development when voters approved a $65.5 million bond measure to expand the city’s parks, recreation and library facilities. The bonds were placed on a 15-year amortization schedule and are to be paid in full by 2030 via a secondary property tax.

After almost five years of planning, flood mitigation and eventually construction, Copper Sky Regional Park and Multi-Generational Center opened in the spring of 2014 at a cost of $52 million. The facility, being brand new, was expected to create an initial budgetary deficiency, Mayor Christian Price said.

“We’ve never operated a facility like this before… so you look around and see how other cities do it,” Price said. “But you have to remember that as soon as this facility comes out of the ground, you have a giant hit to the General Fund.”

To help cushion that blow, a $7.4 million grant was awarded to the city by the AK-Chin Indian Community to be distributed over the course of five years at $1.48 million annually.

To prevent undue burden on the city when the grant runs out, Price said, council set a goal.

That goal, he said, was to generate enough revenue through usage fees to cover at least 75 percent of operational costs and eventually shrink that margin to cover 100 percent of the cost.

Now, as the city enters the fifth and final year of the Ak-Chin grant, administrators are sifting through the facility’s budget in an attempt to lower overhead and get the facility on track to self-sustainability.

Not only will the $1.48 million cushion be taken away after next fiscal year, but the city is currently experiencing only about a 65 percent return, Interim Community Services director Fred Gray said.

In July, former Community Services Director Kristie Reister presented a financial review of Copper Sky at a Budget, Finance and Operations (BFO) Subcommittee meeting in an effort to address the impending situation and to both reduce costs and increase revenue.

The aquatic center was heavily scrutinized for its high overhead. Other suggested cuts were to simple expenses such as office supplies and advertising.

Additionally, in light of the recent increase in state minimum wage, increasing membership rates to reflect an increase in general labor costs was discussed at the July BFO meeting. This is most likely to take the form of increased day-use fees to encourage the purchase of monthly and annual memberships.

However, when considering rate increases, Price wants to err on the side of caution.

“Where’s the break-even point? How much do you let go so that you subsidize that because that’s what the taxpayers demand?” Price said. “They want to use [Copper Sky] for an economical price.”

Gray has since replaced Reister as head of the Community Services Department on an interim basis.

Gray has extensive experience in Community Services, including more than a decade as Tuscon’s Parks and Recreations director. And though his time with the City of Maricopa is currently considered provisional, he does agree changes must be made.

However, he said, any changes need to be done in such a way they “don’t impact services.”

Though officials seem to be working hard to compensate for the lack of a grant, Financial Services Director Brenda Hasler insisted that despite any potential shortcomings in the Copper Sky budget the city would never be in jeopardy of defaulting on any bond payments. Doing so would mean a significant blow to the city’s credit rating, so the city would make other budget shifts to prevent that from happening.

“We budget conservatively,” Hasler said. “We never budget [overall] expenditures over and above revenues.”

Accordingly, as the city prepares for life without the Ak-Chin grant, they must consider the impact of an increased burden on the city’s General Fund, the fund that AKIC grant money was channeled through.

And therein lies the rub.

As Price put it, the city must continue to subsidize the facility in such a way that rates do not price out the residents. As Gray put it, the city should be leery of sacrificing services. And as Hasler put it, the city cannot default on its debt obligations.

Instead, a balancing act must be performed that in the end keeps residents happy, Copper Sky afloat and the city financially solvent.

Additionally, for those who suggest issuing the remaining $13 million bond money to compensate, Price said, no way. The city doesn’t want to over-leverage itself and risk its credit-worthiness.

“Just because your credit card limit says $100,000, does it mean you should spend $100,000 if you only make $50,000 a year? No, it doesn’t.”


This story appears in the February issue of InMaricopa.


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Photo by Dean Crandall

City officials met with members of the Budget, Finance and Operations subcommittee Monday to discuss mitigating costs associated with Copper Sky Regional Park and Recreation Center.

During the meeting at City Hall, city council and BFO members Nancy Smith, Peggy Chapados and Mayor Christian Price discussed adjusting fees and hours of operation at the Aquatic Center, and possibly bringing in private management to reduce costs at Copper Sky.

Currently, Aquatic Center membership revenue only generates about $125,000, not even a quarter of the roughly $540,000 in annual operating costs.

The city has determined the Aquatic center should alter fee structures and cut hours wherever possible to cover the estimated $415,000 in remaining costs.

The shortfall, said City Manager Gregory Rose, should be no surprise.

“Pools historically just don’t cover themselves,” Rose said.

To help with the shortfall, the city asked the Community Services Department to submit a list of immediate cost-saving reductions they could make to this year’s budget. However, with only $22,250 in suggested “immediate reductions,” the bulk of which was made to personnel hours, the BFO had to find alternative methods for solving the problem.

Price said the city should consider a reasonable increase in membership fees to reconcile expenses associated with the recent minimum wage increases.

“We still have to talk about staying in the market so people come and use the facility, but at the same time, the rates of everyone’s minimum wages are going up,” Price said. “And, we haven’t changed the rates on the facility, or anything therein, in the last three years.”

Price further suggested looking into corporate sponsorship of special events such as the Spring Egg Dive and Movies in The Pool, or start charging a $1 or $2 fee for the events.

Another cut suggested by the Community Service report was to limit the Leisure Pool operations during slower months. Currently it operates from April 18 to Oct. 15. The report suggests changing that to May 15 to Aug. 15 due to fewer school-aged swimmer utilizing the pool during school time.

It was also suggested in the report the Competition Pool, which is open year-round, be closed between Nov. 15 to Jan. 15.

Combined, these reductions could save the city another $100,000, according to the report.

Aside from cuts, a newly-formed sales team will try to drum up revenue by pushing membership sales and corporate outreach.

However, Copper Sky fitness coordinator Matthew Reiter said the industry standard for recreation center membership is about 3 percent of the population in a three-mile proximity.

A previous market penetration analysis was done in the past, Reiter said. He added he did not understand how it was conducted and thus didn’t trust its accuracy enough to cite the numbers.

To fully understand the potential number of memberships, Rose asked Community Services to conduct a Market Analysis.

“As it exists today in our market, how many memberships can we reasonably expect?” Rose hypothetically posited. “How well can you expect this facility to do?”

Rose also made a request for information regarding a third-party operating the Aquatic Center. A subsequent cost comparison, he said, will help them decided how to move on from there.

Officials also discussed lowering the cost of landscaping around Copper Sky Regional Park by contracting with a private company. The city hopes a bidding process for the contract will help them further trim expenses.

All of these items are set to be debated in future BFO meetings, and any subsequent changes to fee structures, operating hours or private contracts at Copper Sky will then be made by City Council.

The MUSD Business Services Department received awards in financial reporting. Photo by Michelle Chance

A new $43 million school budget was approved Wednesday night.

The Maricopa Unified School District unanimously adopted its 2017-18 budget after months of deliberation.

Working mostly behind the scenes were MUSD Business Services Director Aron Rausch and his staff.

Marked with a smile and donned with a money-printed tie, Rausch presented the board with his team’s finalized budget. It is a task he and his team have worked on for months and were happy to be nearing the finish line on Wednesday night.

“We started this in December,” Rausch said in regards to the budget. “All of the communication and all of the input all the way through now, and it’s July. Months and months and months of work.”

The adopted budget approval puts to rest a controversial debate over employees’ cost-of-living adjustment. The budget allows for a 3-percent increase in employee pay across the board.

However, a formal vote on the district’s budget for its maintenance and operation account was delayed until the board’s next meeting in August.

At the board’s previous meeting, “budget option 2” was the preferred budget out of three options.

This option included a 3 percent pay increase for all employees among other expenditures for the account’s $1.25 million.

Board member Torri Anderson said during Wednesday’s meeting that although the board agreed on the budget line items, she expressed desire to take a formal vote on it.

In previous years, Anderson said the board voted on which budget option they preferred, rather than moving forward through an informal consensus.

Anderson said although board members had expressed their preference for the budget option in conversations with Superintendent Steve Chestnut, it was her desire to express that decision in a public setting.

 “We can certainly all agree, but I feel more comfortable if we took a formal vote approving option two as a board, so it wasn’t just conversations off to the side, so that the public knew this is what we approved,” Anderson said.

The board is scheduled to take the vote at its next board meeting in August.

Rausch said that the board has approved the overall adopted budget, including the “budget option two” expenditures within the M&O account.

“Our school board wanted to endorse the budget option two in its entirety,” Rausch said.

The passing of the budget came the same night as the business department was awarded two certificates highlighting the district’s financial reports from 2016.

This is the 10th consecutive year MUSD has received both awards, Chestnut said.

The first was the Certificate of Excellence in Financial Reporting by the Association of School Business Officials International.

“The district was recognized for its comprehensive annual financial report for the fiscal year ending 2016,” according to ASBO International.

Next was the Government Finance Officers Association Certificate of Achievement for excellence in Financial Reporting presented to the district for the same financial report.

“There are only a handful of schools in the state that have received both of these awards, but we are proud of the good work in that office and we know that it’s led by Mr. Rausch, but it’s very much a team effort and he’d be the first to tell you that,” Chestnut said.  

Photo by Michelle Chance

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Photo by Dean Crandall

The City of Maricopa’s operating budget for fiscal year 2017-18 was officially adopted by City Council, Tuesday, after a short debate over improvements at Copper Sky Recreation Center and funding several council members were hoping to see provided for boards and committees.

The passing of the almost $39 million budget was slowed by the two sticking points, which when combined amount to around $68,000.

The gym upgrades at Copper Sky are proposed to only cost $23,000, but have been allocated an additional $20,000 in contingency funds if costs exceed the initial proposal.

Funding for the Boards, Commissions and Committees (BCCs) was the lesser of the two proposed costs at $25,000, but it drew the most contention across council.

The funds were initially suggested to help seed two of the city’s newest committees – the Veterans Affairs Committee and the Cultural Affairs Advisory Committee. However, it quickly became evident other BCCs might also want to tap into the funding.

A vetting process was universally agreed upon by council at prior meetings as a solution to the issue, but a consensus was not easily reached among the council during Tuesday’s meeting regarding the amount of funding.

“I would not recommend 25 [thousand dollars], I’m thinking somewhere in the 16 to 20 range,” Councilmember Peg Chapados said. “I would also like to send this back to the BFO [Budget, Finance and Operations subcommittee], if we approve this, to put some guidelines as to how that money is requested and what it can be used for.”

Councilmember Henry Wade said funding may be necessary for some groups who find it hard to gain financial support from the community.

“It is more difficult, at times, for one group or organization to go and get funding from the community,” Wade said.

He suggested the ability for veteran’s organizations to get community funding is much better than the Cultural Affairs Advisory Committee, which may not drum up the same level of support, thus making the “seed” money necessary.

“I think that in this particular case, at this particular time, it gives us the ability to create quality organizations,” Wade said. “It gives these BCCs an opportunity at a step up.”

Wade said he is willing to negotiate the amount of funding, if it helps the council reach a consensus.

The budget was eventually passed with the approval of the funding for gym upgrades at Copper Sky, and the recommendation that a decision regarding funding for BCCs be put on hold until the BFO can come up with a solution.

Maricopa Unified School District Governing Board mulls the new budget. Photo by Michelle Chance

Details surrounding employee pay increases were not resolved among board members Wednesday night at the Maricopa Unified School District Governing Board meeting.

Before a proposed budget for the 2017-18 was approved, governing board member Torri Anderson pushed back on the board’s previous salary increase proposal, which would raise district workers’ pay by 3 percent.

Anderson instead suggested that teacher raises stay at the proposed figure. All other positions would receive a 2 percent pay raise in an effort Anderson said would “incentivize” teachers to come to – and stay with – the district.

The current pay increase across the board for all employees would cost the district $817,500. Dropping other employees by 1 percent would save the district money.

Anderson said MUSD could take savings from her proposal and contribute them to the district’s reserve.

“I want to incentivize teachers, even if it’s just that 1 percent because everybody is important, but we have a hard time hanging onto teachers,” Anderson said.

Other board members sustained arguments supporting an equal percentage raise across the district. Gary Miller said MUSD also has issues retaining bus drivers and other classified staff.

Board President Patti Coutré said teachers wouldn’t have the support they need without the work of attendance clerks, bus drivers, janitors and district office staff.

“In the past, we kind of got away from that because we wanted all of our staff to feel valued,” Coutré said in regards to giving one group of employees a higher percentage raise than another.

Administrators would also receive the 3 percent increase in the district’s current proposal.

AnnaMarie Knorr, board vice president, sided with Anderson and agreed keeping all staff except teachers at a 2 percent raise could build the district’s reserve fund.  

However, Coutré referred to a previous report given by district Business Manager Aron Rausch, in which he said the reserve fund would stay at an acceptable level with all employees receiving a 3 percent raise.

Knorr also supported the argument that raising teacher pay above others could help the district retain teachers.

Board member Joshua Judd said, “finding teachers isn’t at epidemic levels,” citing the district’s recent hiring efforts. However, he said MUSD should consider incentivizing teacher pay in future budgets.

The board agreed to continue the salary discussion at a later date. Superintendent Steve Chestnut said the figures would be gathered and discussed during a future board meeting.

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It’s budget season, a time of changes, but those changes won’t include a hike in local property tax rates.

The City of Maricopa’s primary tax rate will remain at 4.7845. With this week’s tentative budget adoption, the Pinal County rate is expected to stay at 3.8699. But that doesn’t mean more money won’t be rolling in.

In fact, Maricopa expects to collect 4.2 percent more in its levy. 

“The tax rate for property owners in the City of Maricopa will remain the same,” said Maricopa Finance Director Brenda Hasler. “Due to increased property values, the overall amount the City is proposing to collect will increase.”

During the current fiscal year, Maricopa’s tax levy was $10.99 million. With the new fiscal year, that levy will be around $11.7 million. Primary property taxes on a $100,000 home will increase from $459.30 to $478.45.

The city will have a mandated Truth in Taxation Public Hearing on the primary property tax rate June 20 at 7 p.m. at City Hall.

Meanwhile, the county’s budget has decreased by $3.6 million. About 49 percent of the Pinal County general fund comes from property taxes. In the county budget, 60 percent of all revenue goes to the Sheriff’s Office, the County Attorney’s Office and the courts.

The tentative budget totals $406 million.

Of property tax that is collected by Pinal County, about 25 percent goes to the county. The rest goes to school districts, Central Arizona College, municipalities and other taxing entities.

“What we are doing is putting a ceiling on our final budget,” Assistant County Manager Leo Lew said.  “The total budget number cannot go up from here.  But there is some flexibility to be able to reallocate money and shift money around if we need to before adoption of the final budget.”

Lew also stated that Pinal County saw a 3.2 percent growth in new construction valuation, a slight increase in existing property valuation and excise tax collections. 

The Board of Supervisors will vote on the final budget on July 12, with the adoption of the tax levy rates coming on Aug. 21. 

The MUSD board met in special session to discuss budget options Monday. Photo by Michelle Chance

The budget priorities for the Maricopa Unified School District are homing in on three main areas: funding for afterschool activity buses, setting classroom target sizes and raising staff salaries.

Although the MUSD Governing Board is drafting 14 expenditures in all, the conversation around increasing employee pay is compelling board members to discuss shifting even more funds from afterschool transportation to supplying more income for its workers.

The board sharpened its focus Tuesday night during its budget work session inside the district administration building, but a more in depth discussion takes place tonight at 6:30 p.m.

Here is a snapshot preview of tonight’s budget discussion:

·         Activity Buses: Out of three draft funding options discussed Tuesday night, the board leaned toward the least expensive, which would keep activity buses running two days a week at MUSD’s middle schools and high school. At a previous meeting, the board pitched the idea of running the bus five days a week at MHS.

    o   Cost: $64,283. The proposed figure is down nearly $50,000 since the board’s last meeting. The cost would include the salary of a security guard who will monitor the high school students using the after school bus.

·         Classroom Target Size: Lowering class sizes could be expensive at MUSD if it goes with one of the three options Superintendent Steve Chestnut proposed Tuesday. The costliest of the trio, “Option C” would also alleviate crowded classrooms the most.

    o   Cost: $20,400.

·         Employee Pay: The district is discussing a 3 percent salary increase for all employees. Teachers will receive an additional 1 percent increase from the state. Board members agreed that giving staff a significant wage increase would raise district morale and attract quality teachers in the future.

    o   Cost: $775,000. This figure is a half-percent increase from the board’s previous proposal of a 2.5 percent salary raise for district employees.

The board is also expected to discuss, Wednesday, the creation of a “sick time bank” which would allow employees to donate a portion of their unused sick time to those who have used their 11 day allowance and are in need of more. If approved, the proposal would cost the district $28,000.


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Brenda Hasler

The city of Maricopa was recognized by an international organization earlier this month for presenting an effective budget for fiscal year 2016-17, the ninth of its kind since the city was incorporated in 2003.

Not long after the city council voted to approve its 2017-18 budget on March 16, the Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada (GOFA) bestowed the Distinguished Budget Presentation Award to the city for “meeting the highest principles of governmental budgeting,” according to the city press release.

City Financial Services Director Brenda Hasler, who was promoted to her present position a year ago, is a key player in the budgeting process. After being part of the 2015-16 and 2016-17 award-winning budgets, she could very well be one of the common denominators of success.

However, she said, budgeting is more of a team sport.

“The award reflects the commitment of the mayor and Council, City Manager, and staff to meeting the highest principles of governmental budgeting,” Hasler said.

To be considered for the award, Maricopa had to meet certain criteria for presenting the budget, including demonstrating its proficiency in four basic roles as (1) a policy document, (2) a financial plan, (3) an operations guide, and (4) a communication device.

Fourteen subcategories of criteria were then further considered.

City Manager Gregory Rose is proud of his colleagues’ abilities to produce such a distinguished budget. Further, he said, he believes those same efforts will carry over into this year’s budget.

“The City of Maricopa Finance team has done a tremendous job putting together the budget and has received this prestigious award for nine years in a row,” he said. “We are in the process of putting together a budget for the 2017/2018 fiscal year with the same high standards.”

The Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA), was created in 1906 and “represents public finance officials throughout the United States and Canada,” according to their website. “The association’s more than 19,000 members are federal, state/provincial, and local finance officials deeply involved in planning, financing, and implementing thousands of governmental operations in each of their jurisdictions.”

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Maricopa City Council ponders the proposed budget at Tuesday's meeting. Photo by Mason Callejas

In a late-night push the Maricopa City Council passed the first draft of the city’s 2017-18 budget Tuesday, including a decrease in taxes.

After a lengthy presentation by city manager Gregory Rose and an intricate discussion across the dais, council members unanimously approved the “balanced” budget. Among other things, it will lower the secondary property tax rate for Maricopa property owners from $1.69 to $1.40 for $100 of assessed valuation.

City officials deemed the decrease to be possible in light of an increase in home values as well as an increase in home sales.

The tax, designed to cover the construction costs of Copper Sky, will eventually be phased out entirely upon fulfillment of the revenue bond.

Overall, city expenses are estimated to increase from around $31 million to nearly $39 million, with fire, police and the city magistrate receiving around 59 percent of that.

Despite the tax-rate decrease, the city is planning to increase salaries across the board by 4 percent.

They are also seeking to purchase new emergency-response and technological equipment. The city wants to add multiple personnel including a police lieutenant and dispatcher, two fire captains and a fire administrative assistant, two code inspector positions and an information technologies support technician.

The spending will also pay for a new fire department administration building at the Estrella Gin site.

To pay for these additional items and positions, city officials hope to not only see increased revenue from the adjusted tax plan but also increased income from Copper Sky, various grants and an annual transfer of $500,000 in Highway User Revenue Funds (HURF) to the General Fund.

Over the course of 12 years, $6 million will be transferred from HURF coffers to the General Fund to cover costs associated with the State Route 347 overpass construction.

The only real point of contention came down to a proposed $14,000 in funding for two of the city’s newest committees – the Veterans Affairs Committee and the Cultural Affairs Committee.

Councilmember’s all seemed to agree the city should be able to offer help to the committees but not have to fund them in their entirety. Neither was formed by statute such as the Board of Adjustments, or Planning and Zoning Commission.

Mayor Christian Price said he wanted to offer financial assistance to the committees in some way, but “$7,000 is too much.”

He said $4,000 or $5,000 is more acceptable, though even that should not be a blind expense.

“[The money’s] there, it’s on the side, but it’s not a mandate to spend it,” Price said.

Councilmember Peg Chapados agreed with Price, going a step further and suggesting the creation of a general fund to which all boards, commissions and committees could apply to for funding.

“I think we have to incentivize our committees to be able to do things for the community,” Chapados said. “But we also have to look at sponsorship as a realistic funding mechanism.”

In the end, council decided to create a general BCC fund of $25,000, which will be accessible to all boards, commissions and committees. Council hopes to further whittle that amount down to $20,000, choosing to allocate the larger amount as a protective measure as the budgeted amount can always decrease but not increase.

Upon approving the budget, City Manager Gregory Rose thanked city staff’s efforts to bring a balanced budget to the table and offered special recognition to Financial Services Director Brenda Hasler for her team’s long hours.

Council concurred the sentiment, offering extended applause.

Though most of this new budget will remain intact, expenditures may be reduced or have their cost burden shifted as the city sees fit and as is allowable by law.

Click on photos below

Maricopa Wells Middle School students made a presentation to the governing board during a regular session Wednesday night. Photo by Michelle Chance

By Michelle Chance

It was a pageantry of student success Wednesday night during a presentation inside the Maricopa Unified School District Board Room.

Students from Maricopa Wells Middle School spoke to the MUSD Governing Board about their experiences, some of them life-changing, in programs that ranged from music to drama to athletics. Some of these activities, however, take place after the school day ends, and that is where the issues begin.

MUSD Governing Board looks at budget numbers. Photo by Michelle Chance

MWMS and other secondary schools at the district do not offer transportation to these students due to a lack of grant funding.

“Listening to this presentation tonight … and what Maricopa Wells has done, is nothing short of amazing,” said Board President Patti Coutré. “You can see where they’re heading … and unfortunately transportation is one of the resources they will need to continue without having another grant.”

Principal Rick Abel said families make do by working together to ensure children make it home safely. Coaches are even known to stay until 6:30 p.m. to wait with students until a family member picks them up, Abel said.

In addition to traditional extracurricular activities, MWMS also offers after school academic opportunities like “eighth hour” for students who have fallen behind in their coursework. Abel said the school saw increased attendance in the program when it still had after-hours transportation.

The Board addressed the issue in previous meetings by proposing funding from additional district revenue and has deliberated for weeks on where and how to spend the money.

The district has over $1 million to spend in various categories for the upcoming school year. The figure makes up 3 percent of the district’s overall maintenance and operating budget.

In the most recent proposal, a boost to employee salaries and after-school transportation require the most cash.

Superintendent Steve Chestnut said the transportation cost for the three schools that would use the after-school activity buses would take close to $200,000 of that budget.

Not all board members were convinced of the price tag.

“I would like to see the cost come down,” said Board Member Torri Anderson, who consistently advocates for higher teacher salaries during meetings.

Out of 18 proposed expenditures, making “progress on employee pay” is the most expensive category for next year’s budget. 

The board’s proposal allocates $600,000 of the additional revenue to district personnel, which Chestnut said “would be roughly 2 percent increase across the board for all employees.”

However, Anderson thinks the district can do better.

“I would love to be the highest-paid school district in Pinal County. Then we’ll have a waiting list of teachers coming to our school district,” Anderson said.

Board Member Joshua Judd said the board needed to find a “happy balance” between the two categories.

The board tabled the draft budget for an upcoming work session. Chestnut said he expects the board to confirm an official budget by late June or July. 

School board members AnnaMarie Knorr (left) and Torri Anderson (right) across board President Patti Coutre debate paying for crossing guards, a duty shared among teachers and staff, during Wednesdays meeting of the MUSD Governing Board. Photo by Ethan McSweeney

By Ethan McSweeney

At its final meeting of the 2015-16 school year, the Maricopa Unified School District Governing Board approved the budget for the upcoming year, increased salaries for health workers and new crossing guard positions.

The approved $40.6 million budget for the 2016-17 school year includes virtually no changes from the proposed budget presented to the board last month. New spending in the budget includes a 3.9 percent base salary increase for all employees, an annual bonus for staff and 25 added positions, including teachers, a security officer and a nurse.

Much of the new spending comes as the district takes in about $3.5 million in additional revenue from the state with the passage of Proposition 123, which Arizona voters approved in May, and inflation funding. Proposition 123 allows Arizona to tap into the State Land Trust to give districts an additional $3.5 billion over the next 10 years to settle a lawsuit from the school districts that contended the state underfunded them during the recession years.

At the meeting Wednesday night, the MUSD governing board also voted to approve a 15-percent base salary increase for health service staff at Maricopa schools. The board earlier approved adding an extra nursing position as part of the budget process, bringing the district total from seven to eight.

MUSD Superintendent Steve Chestnut said the pay boost is needed to increase retention among nursing staff, which experiences high turnover. MUSD currently has openings for four registered nurses across the district.
“We’ve had a lot of nurses come and go over the years,” Chestnut said.

“One of the reasons is that our salaries are lower than our neighbors,” he added. “The other challenge is that we have a high special ed. population that tends to put additional pressure on the nursing department.”

With those four openings for nurses, the district is looking to fill 15 positions total — six of those being classroom positions.

“We have backup plans if we can’t fill them all,” Chestnut said.

Board Member Torri Anderson said the openings Maricopa has are small when compared to other districts in metro Phoenix. She added many of the teachers being hired at MUSD also live in Maricopa, which helps to increase retention.

A request from Butterfield Elementary School for four crossing guards led to a lengthy discussion among board members about the need for the positions and whether the district should pay for them.

The four crossing guards at Butterfield were requested by the school’s principal Janel Hildick because of concerns for student safety when trying to cross streets around the school. Half of the $35,000 to $42,000 for the crossing guards, who would also work as playground monitors, would come out of Butterfield’s site budget. The other half of the funding would come from the district’s maintenance and operation budget.

“We’re probably looking at two intersections that may be the worst in the district for kids trying to cross,” said Tom Beckett, MUSD director of human resources. “We have an awful lot of walkers. It’s just a real challenge. We as a district feel this is a safety issue to a point where we need to address this.”

Chestnut added Butterfield has received the most concern for student safety on the busy roads around the school. Currently, teachers and staff members share crossing guard duties at the school.

Board Member AnnaMarie Knorr said by approving the request from one school might prompt other schools to come to the district for any extra staff they might need. She added teachers and staff at other schools would still need to be taking up crossing guard duty.

“It worries me that we’re going to set ourselves up for other schools going, ‘Well, why do they get this?’” Knorr said. “We’ve also had other schools in budget committee ask for specific things that we haven’t given them.”

Anderson said she understood the concerns but the Butterfield crossing guards are necessary because there is need for them now.

“I think that we need to support, as a board and as a district, the safety of our students,” she said.

The board approved creating the four crossing guard/playground monitor positions at Butterfield and adding the district-wide job description for the position for other schools that may ask for crossing guards, too.

Maricopa and ADOT are now moving rapidly on an overpass, and the city's budget reflects maneuvers to make $15 million available. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

By Ethan McSweeney

Anticipated costs for the State Route 347 overpass drives much of the increases in the city of Maricopa’s $142 million budget for the 2017 fiscal year.

The budget, which the Maricopa City Council approved at its meeting on June 21, is $30 million higher than last year’s budget of $112 million. The city expects to spend about $15 million for its share of the design and construction of the overpass project.

The city isn’t sure when that money will need to be paid to the Arizona Department of Transportation, which is in charge of the overpass project, but it will be budgeting to pay for it in the upcoming fiscal year, said Brenda Hasler, Maricopa’s financial services director.

The SR 347 overpass, which will span the Union Pacific Railroad that cuts through Maricopa, is expected to have design completed by 2017, according to ADOT. Construction is scheduled to last from late 2017 through late 2019.

The overpass was included in the Department of Transportation’s Five-Year Transportation Facilities Construction Program that the State Transportation Board approved earlier this month. Inclusion in the Five-Year program means that it will be funded during that period from 2016 through 2021.

The budget for the 2017 fiscal year, which runs from July 1, 2016, through June 30, 2017, doesn’t include many substantial changes from last year’s budget, Hasler said.

The city spent about $60 million of last year’s $112 million budgeted expenditures. That higher estimate for spending is the result of the budgeting for items like grants prior to the fiscal year that the city may or may not actually receive, Hasler said.

Mayor Christian Price said during the council meeting the budget has gone through extensive revisions in the months-long process.

“It’s a really long process,” Price said. “That’s what’s taken us to this point today.”

Also in the budget, the city anticipates a five-fold increase in parks and recreation fees it will collect from Copper Sky, from $299,500 last year to about $1.55 million this upcoming year, based on increased membership.

The city also expects to collect slightly more in property tax revenue due to increased property values in Maricopa. For the 2017 fiscal year, the city plans to take in $14.73 million in primary and secondary property taxes, up from $14.26 million last year. Tax rates remain the same.

Maricopa scored a big win in the effort for an overpass at the Union Pacific crossing on State Route 347 by landing a federal TIGER grant of $15 million. Photo by Michael Barnes
Maricopa scored a big win in the effort for an overpass at the Union Pacific crossing on State Route 347 by landing a federal TIGER grant of $15 million. Photo by Michael Barnes

Library manager Erik Surber will give a presentation on the library during an April 5 city council meeting.

By Yvonne Gonzalez

Maricopa Public Library is underfunded, understaffed and out of options to expand services without added resources.

Library manager Erik Surber said he plans to ask the city for more funding as officials lay out the next budget in the coming months. He will give a presentation on the current budget situation for city council members during an April 5 work session.

“I feel it’s really my job to advocate for the library to get us to where I think [we should be],” Surber said, “and where the community wants us.”

Surber said there are no current plans to close the library on Saturdays, despite a rumor to the contrary.

“We’re in the middle of the budget process right now,” he said. “Nothing’s finalized at this point.”

Library programs are largely based on community input, Surber said.

“If there [are] a lot of people asking for certain programs and we want to add it, we have to look at what program we’re currently offering that we would cut,” he said. “That is the reality of our economic situation.”

City spokesperson Jennifer Brown said a new spending plan for the city will be adopted in late June, with the current budget year ending in July.

“The budget is tight for everybody,” she said. “We’re still in the midst of figuring out next year’s budget.”

Though the library is understaffed, Surber noted the facility doesn’t have the capacity to hold more employees.

“In this case, being undersized trumps being understaffed,” he said.

Surber said among 16 Arizona cities with a population between 12,000 and 80,000, the median library budget is $33.88 per capita. Meanwhile, Maricopa’s library is about a third of that, at $11.20 per capita.

Median staffing for those same libraries, Surber said, is at 0.54 full-time equivalent positions for every 1,000 residents, while Maricopa sits at 0.18.

“That’s generally how libraries measure staffing level,” he said.

Several reasons play into the library’s staffing and funding, from the economic downturn to the rising costs of goods, including books.

“We are the newest of those 16 libraries,” he said. “We are the newest one and playing catch-up.”

He said the library has been put in a difficult funding position.

“We’re definitely not unique in that struggle,” he said. “Libraries all over the country are really finding themselves in similar positions.”

The library is getting creative in finding funds, pursuing sponsors for its summer reading program as well as regional and national grants.

“It’s an unfortunate situation economically that we’re in currently, but we’re trying to find solutions,” he said.