Chandler’s nearly $1 billion budget open for public review

By Lee Shappell

Chandler is proposing a 2.8 percent decrease in its annual budget for fiscal 2020-21 from the current year as it moves into the final phase of adoption amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, several elements of the proposal might generate public discussion during a final public hearing on tentative budget adoption and property-tax levy at 6 p.m. Thursday, May 28, at City Council Chambers, 88 E. Chicago St.

Items possibly raising questions could be a proposed expansion of the city manager’s staff from 5 to 7, a 24 percent increase, alongside 7 percent decreases for the city’s police and fire departments. The budget, if approved, also would include $300,000 for city welcoming signs.

The 2020-21 proposed budget of almost a billion dollars, $901,353,473, is down from the 2019-20 adopted budget of $927,046,172.

The proposed property-tax rate for the coming fiscal year of $0.2501 per $100 of assessed limited valuation, as determined by the Maricopa County Assessor, is down slightly from the $0.2581 of 2019-20.

That would save taxpayers roughly $10 per household. The proposed secondary property-tax rate of $0.8700 remains unchanged from 2019-20.

However, the city would bring in substantially more revenue despite relatively flat property taxes in the coming fiscal year, due largely to new property coming onto the books.

Primary property-tax revenue, used for general government operations, would generate $8,111,829 in 2020-21, an increase of 4.4 percent from the prior year.

Secondary property-tax revenue, restricted to general bonded-debt obligations and voter-approved budget overrides, would generate $28,217,900, a 7.7 percent increase over the current fiscal year.

The council has made the decision to open chambers to the public for the hearing, with measures in place for social distancing, according to Matt Burdick, the city’s communications and public affairs director.

Admission to the meeting will be limited to 50 people or fewer, Burdick said. Audio and video of the hearing will be broadcast in City Hall lobby for those who cannot get into chambers, and audio of the hearing will be available in the courtyard outside.

Additionally, it will be aired live on Cox Cable 11, CenturyLink Channel 8502, and streamed through the city’s website (chandleraz.gov/government/departments/communications-and-public-affairs/chandler-channel) and YouTube channel (youtube.com/user/chandlerarizona/feed), Burdick said.

Final adoption of the city budget is scheduled for June 11. Property Tax Levy Adoption comes 14 days later, on June 25. The 2020-21 fiscal year begins July 1.

Items in the proposed budget that may prompt resident inquiry:

  • 5 percent merit pay increases for city employees.
  • Transfer of two positions to the city manager’s staff, increasing it to seven. That’s a 40 percent increase when two new positions are in the budget for the Police Department and none for fire, airport or public works —which is losing 11 positions.
  • 24.1 percent increase in the city manager’s budget, compared with a 7.4 percent decrease for the Fire Department and 7.0 percent decrease for the Police Department.
  • $300,000 for the City Gateways Project for reconstruction or replacement of welcoming signs into the city.

The total operating budget would decrease by 6.0 percent but the total capital budget would increase by 2.9 percent if the proposal is approved.

The proposed fiscal-year budget is the result of city department directors and their teams reviewing and prioritizing services provided and capital projects based on the City Council’s Strategic Policy Goals, guidance from the Council Budget Kickoff in December, 2019, and from subsequent budget workshops, in which citizen engagement would be involved was considered an important component, according to City Manager Marsha Reed.

The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic late in the budgeting process created a substantial element of uncertainty, Reed said. This proposed budget includes COVID-19 impacts, reducing revenue and forcing spending reductions, Reed said.

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