By Nick Worth
The Holbrook City Council unanimously approved a resolution for a one-time override of the state imposed expenditure limitation during a special meeting Tuesday night. The override election is set to take place on May 20.
According to City Finance Director Randy Sullivan, the override is necessary in order to allow the city to spend funds in excess of a state-imposed $6.8 million budget. He said another $500,000 is needed in order to carry out much-needed road repairs during the coming fiscal year.
Sullivan emphasized that the city has the money, but under the state expenditure cap, is not allowed to spend it, thus the need for the override election.
Added into the mix is the possible restoration of Highway Users Revenue Fund (HURF) monies the state has been sweeping for the past several years. As of right now, Holbrook is receiving $572,259 in HURF funds for fiscal year 2015.
“If they restore it (HURF monies) to the full amount, that will mean another $500,000 in the budget,” Sullivan said. “Because HURF has been taking a hit for the last several years, I’ve had to take road funds out of the general fund.”
Sullivan added that without the override passing, he would only be able to spend a portion of any additional HURF monies that do come in.
“If they restore less than full HURF funds, I won’t be able to deduct it from the expenditure limit,” Sullivan noted. “So there again, we can collect it, but we can’t spend it.”
At a public hearing at the Holbrook Library Tuesday, Sullivan said the May 20 override election is critical because of other expenses that will take money from the general fund, such as jail fees and utilities.
“Jail fees are going up and utilities are killing us,” Sullivan said. “We spent $120,000 in jail fees last year and we’re on pace to spend $140,000 this year and that was at 50 percent of the actual cost.”
He said Navajo County has been giving the cities and towns of the county “a break” in charging only half the normal fees for the past three years.
That break is going away, though, as county officials have announced they are raising jail fees up to the 100 percent mark.
“They’re not actually raising their jail fees,” said Sullivan. “They’re just doing away with the discount they’ve been giving us, so now I have to budget for $280,000.”
He said the breaks the county gave on jail fees have been helpful.
“We really appreciate what the county has done for us in giving us a 50 percent discount,” Sullivan said. “They have really been good about working with us.
“If they hadn’t done that for us we would have been dealing with it three years ago,” Sullivan added. “That has helped us a lot.”
“Without this passing, we have zero money for roads next year,” Sullivan said of the override. “Unless this passes, or HURF is fully restored, we’ll have zero money.”
Holbrook Head Librarian Wendy Skevington, who stopped by the public meeting Tuesday, agreed.
“Holbrook is blessed to have an abundance of sales tax revenues,” Skevington said. “It needs to be spent for the good of the community, not left sitting in the bank. It won’t do any good there.”
By Nick Worth