Election

Florence Prop 459 would further increase budget cap approved by voters

Posted 5/16/22

On August 2, Florence voters will be asked to consider Proposition 459, which if approved would further increase the permanent base adjustment adopted by Florence voters in 2018.

In that election, …

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Election

Florence Prop 459 would further increase budget cap approved by voters

Posted

On August 2, Florence voters will be asked to consider Proposition 459, which if approved would further increase the permanent base adjustment adopted by Florence voters in 2018, according to a press release.

In that election, residents voted to increase the town’s original “base limit” of $711,080, which was established by the state legislature in 1979, to $1,165,610. Today, this equates to an expenditure limit of about $33 million based on the town’s current inflation and population adjustments.

However, under the 2018 limit, only the most critical costs, projects and programs can be included in the town’s annual budget and there’s little room for emergencies or large, unforeseen expenses. Also, the state formula does not factor in how much the town collects in revenue annually.

This year, the town’s state-shared revenues increased because Arizona is growing, but the town was not able to allocate many of those resources to improve operations or provide services to its residents due to its current expenditure limit.

“It’s like being forced to use your credit card and carry the interest when you’ve got money in the bank, so it’s not the best position to be in. One example we often cite is that this fiscal year we had to get a loan to buy a new fire truck even though we had the cash on hand,” stated Florence Finance Director Becki Jimenez in the release. “So, if our expenditure limit were to be increased, we’d be able to use the resources we already have but cannot spend.

This would help the town and our residents save money and avoid unnecessary borrowing.”

If Proposition 459 passes, the town’s revised base limit would once again be increased, this time by $3,834,390 for a new total of $5 million. Factoring in inflation and population size, Florence’s new state spending limit would rise to more than $141 million. This change would take effect next fiscal year beginning in July 2023.

“Increasing the town’s base limit would help boost our local control so we can cut back on borrowing, set a balanced budget and allow the town’s budget to grow naturally as our revenues increase,” Jimenez stated. “Also, it’s important to remember that the permanent base adjustment option is intended to be a longer-term solution, so increasing our limit will ensure the town has enough spending capacity for years to come.”

Instead of taking a permanent base adjustment to voters, cities and towns can opt for the “Home Rule” option, which is similar to a permanent adjustment, except voters must reauthorize Home Rule every four years. Each Home Rule election costs the town $25,000 not including staff time, stated Town Clerk and Interim Town Manager Lisa Garcia in the release.

In 2014, residents said no to Home Rule, which resulted in the town having to pay for multiple one-time override elections in order to temporarily increase the town’s expenditure limit.

“Fortunately, these one-time override votes were successful, but if they weren’t, we would have had to make massive cuts to our budget and consider scaling back services for our residents,” Garcia said. “I think due to the recurring costs and potential issues involved with Home Rule, you’re seeing more and more cities and towns going with the permanent base adjustment option.”

For instance, this August, residents in the town of Queen Creek will also be asked to consider a permanent base adjustment instead of voting on Home Rule as the Town has done since its founding.

Speaking to concerns that Prop. 459 may lead to reckless spending, Jimenez explained. “If Prop. 459 is approved by voters, we still have to pass a balanced budget which does not exceed our annual revenues, so the town will continue to be fiscally responsible. Additionally, prior to adopting our annual budget, we hold a number of public hearings on the budget and our property tax levy so residents can attend, provide comment and ensure there’s adequate oversight throughout the process.”

Also, the town is audited on an annual basis to ensure its accounting practices are in order and the town is operating within its means. Those reports are posted on the town’s website and submitted to the Arizona Auditor General annually.

“If voters aren’t happy with the town’s proposed spending, they can always reach out to their elected representatives,” Garcia stated. “cur Council is very responsive and always welcomes comments and feedback from the public."

To learn more about Prop. 459, the town will be holding a number of public outreach meetings in June. It will hold two events at town hall on Wednesday June 1, with one session set for 7-8 a.m. and the second meeting set for 6-7 p.m.

On Wednesday June 15, town officials will be at Fire Station #2 in the Anthem area, again meeting in the morning from 7-8 a.m. and in the evening from 6-7 p.m. In addition to these meetings, town officials will be speaking to the Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce as well as various community groups and housing associations.

If anyone would like the town to present or provide further information on Prop. 459, call 520-868-7541 or email jeff.graves@florenceaz.gov.

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