Feb 032014

By Nick Worth
An election to approve an alternative expenditure limit for the City of Holbrook will be held on Tuesday, May 20, according to City Clerk Cher Reyes.
The election was set during Monday night’s special city council meeting, where the council adopted a resolution specifying the date and purpose of the election, as well as the voter registration deadline.
According to Reyes, the election is needed because the city is operating under a state imposed budget.
“Our budget (limit) was established by the state,” said Reyes. She added that the city did not choose to have home rule, so the state set a spending limit.
“We have more money coming in that exceeds the limit imposed by the state and it can’t be spent without an election,” said Reyes.
City Finance Director Randy Sullivan said the city opted not to seek home rule, because once a city adopts home rule that decision has to be taken back to the voters every four years.
“We thought we could do it without home rule,” Said Sullivan. He said he and City Manager Ray Alley thought capital projects, such as road repairs, were excludable under the state’s limitations, but later found they were not.
According to Sullivan, that is the reason for the alternative expenditure limit election.
“It’s a one-time election asking the voters to approve an alternative budget over the state imposed limit for the 2014-15 year,” Sullivan said. “This election will only take care of this year.”
He said if the council had chosen to put home rule before the voters last year, then the council, rather than the state, would have set the city’s budget. Election laws do not allow the city to hold another expenditure limit election after this one, or a home rule election until the next regular council election, which is set for the fall of 2015.
“And then it won’t go into effect until the 2016-17 fiscal year,” Sullivan said.
A current move in the state legislature to restore Highway User Revenue Fund (HURF) monies to the counties, towns and cities would also have an effect on the city’s budget, said Sullivan.
“If HURF came back we probably wouldn’t be talking about an election,” Sullivan said. “Right now we don’t receive enough HURF money to do very much. We transferred $300,000 last year from the general fund to roads and that’s the only way we were able to do any road work.”
Sullivan noted that HURF funds are excludable under the state imposed limits on the city’s budget. He also said the return of HURF money to the city is not a sure thing.
“That’s why we need this election,” Sullivan said. He said if the city did not hold the election and the restoration of HURF does not go through, “we’d be shooting ourselves in the foot.”
Sullivan emphasized that taxes will not increase if the alternative expenditure limit is approved because the city has plenty of money.
“We’re receiving more money than the state will allow us to spend,” Sullivan said, echoing Reyes. “The voters won’t be hit in the pocketbook at all, but they’ll get some road construction out of it.”
He said if the measure is not passed by the voters in May, then money for street repairs and construction would again have to be taken from the general fund.
The resolution adopted by the council also specified that Navajo County registration and voting lists will be used for the election. In order to be qualified to cast a ballot, voters must be registered by April 21.
In other business Jan. 27, the council:
* Held the first reading of an ordinance authorizing the lease of city property to Operation 29:11.
The group is leasing the former Eagle Heights dormitory on the old Northland Pioneer College campus at 999 Hermosa Drive.
* Held the first reading of an ordinance amending the city code on boards and commissions, and establishment of terms of office.
Under the conditions of the ordinance, the size of the Planning and Zoning Commission would be reduced from seven members to five members. The members would serve four-year terms, which would be staggered. Each term would begin and end on Oct. 15.
For initial appointments, one member would be appointed for a one-year term, two members for two-year terms and two for three-year terms.
* Approved payments of claims totaling $46,469.59.