Jan 082014

By Tammy Gray
In 2014, Holbrook residents can anticipate the most aggressive road improvement projects in 25 years, according to City Manager Ray Alley. There is a caveat, however: voters must approve an alternate expenditure limit measure, the Home Rule option, that will allow the city to spend the money it is collecting.
Alley explained that the city did not request the alternate limit last year, and as a result, road projects suffered.
“It’s not an increase in taxes,” he said. “It allows us to spend what we have.”
The city’s expenditure limit is governed by state law, which is based on 1977 funding levels. Without voter approval, the city can only spend as much money as state regulations allow. Local voters can override those limits, however, and allow the city to set its own budget based on anticipated tax revenues.
According to Alley, because voters were not asked to override the limits last year, the budget has been very tight, even though the city is taking in more than it is spending. He explained that one of his primary goals in 2014 is to try to get the alternate expenditure limit approved so that major road repair projects can begin in late summer.
In addition to the alternate expenditure limit and road improvements, Alley hopes to eliminate the city property tax rate in 2014. He explained that the rate is very small and is not necessary for the city government to function.
“I don’t think it’s something people need to be paying,” he said. “I think it’s something we can do away with.”
Alley plans to spearhead other improvements around the city in 2014 as well, such as placing asphalt millings in alleys and the parking lot at Barrow Little League Field to reduce weeds; expanding the cemetery to the east; and assisting the Little League organization with construction of a new concession stand and announcer’s booth.
City staff will be working on a new dog park on Navajo Blvd., across the street from Jalapeño Poppers restaurant, as well as demolishing several dangerous buildings, including one near the cemetery and one near the senior center, both of which are city-owned.
Alley noted that his goals for 2014 include improving trails at Petroglyph Park, enhancing remote monitoring systems that protect city assets and cross-training additional city employees to perform public works services, such as repairs and maintenance. He explained that the cross-training allows the city to provide better, faster service to residents with fewer employees.
According to Alley, the city also hopes to bring the police department up to full staffing levels in 2014, and to increase salaries to be more competitive with nearby agencies. He noted that there are currently three patrol positions vacant, and three cadets are being trained at the police academy.
“These are the highlights. I think they are realistic and I think we can get them done,” he said.