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home : latest news : latest news November 25, 2015

5/5/2013 9:11:00 AM
Town Council winds down budget talks

Ken Hedler
Special to the Tribune

The Town Council Thursday wrapped up two days of talks on the proposed $62.4 million budget for 2013-14 in half of the three hours allotted for the session.

The only heated discussion occurred when Vice Mayor Don Tjiema questioned Library Director Stuart Mattson about the library being closed Tuesdays when holidays fall on Mondays. The library is opened Tuesdays through Saturdays.

Tjiema said the schedule is a disservice to jobseekers who use the library computers to search for jobs online.

Library employees work Tuesdays through Saturdays or through Fridays, Mattson said.

Tjiema asked, "Is this a service to the public?"

Having Tuesdays off on the day after a Monday holiday is part of the benefits plan for library employees, Mattson said. He added staff is extremely busy when they return to work on Wednesdays.

Councilwoman Lora Lee Nye said she wanted to "piggyback" on Tjiema's statement.

"The vice mayor is right," she said, "It is a disservice to the public."

More people are using the library and Parks and Recreation Department because of the economy, Councilman Michael Whiting said.

Mayor Harvey Skoog ended the discussion on a more optimistic note, telling Mattson, "Stuart, I think you are running it like a business, and I appreciate that."

Mattson said afterward that the town is not budgeting the library to be open Mondays. The proposed budget for the library in 2013-14, which starts July 1, is $1.6 million, $4,153 smaller than the current fiscal year.

The budget session Thursday started with presentations by Human Resources Director Karen Smith and the town's insurance broker, Barbara Lear.

Smith said the Town of Prescott Valley is the only employer that participated in a workshop this past month in Prescott that has implemented a wellness program. She talked about the town's new month-long PV Biggest Loser Challenge, in which the 22 participating employees are committed to losing weight to improve their health.

The town pays 100 percent of the health insurance premiums for the estimated 190 full-time employees and 60 percent for their dependents, Lear said. She added health insurance costs will not increase for the town in the upcoming fiscal year.

Lear, who has represented Prescott Valley for years, did not break down the entire costs of benefits. However, the proposed budget projects $13.4 million in overall employee costs, up 1 percent from the current fiscal year.

Budget presentations followed from Utilities Director Neil Wadsworth, Water Resources Manager John Munderloh, Town Attorney Ivan Legler and Management Services Director Bill Kauppi.

Wadsworth spent part of the time talking about the town's commitment to complying with a $675,000 settlement with the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality to prevent future sewage spills. The town and ADEQ announced the settlement April 5.

He said the town planned to make the investments in technology independently of the settlement.

The settlement requires Prescott Valley to complete a supplemental environmental project valued at $150,000 and implement a "sanitary sewer overflow action plan" valued at $500,000 to resolve at least 10 separate untreated sewage discharges that that occurred between 2010 and 2012.

The two days of budget sessions drew scant audiences: the press and the two candidates seeking a two-year council seat May 21 runoff.

"It is nice to live in a town that is financially healthy and has its act together," candidate Matt Zurcher said afterward.

His challenger, Marty Grossman, said, "The budget looks good. They are able to reduce the expenses without having to reduce services to the people."

Councilwoman Patty Lasker skipped both meetings. The council is on track to adopt a final budget June 27.

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