Gilbert scaled back its street maintenance budget this week as revenue from gasoline taxes and other state sources is drying up. The Town Council voted to cut $1.5 million from the $25.2 million fund this year.
The council voted 6-1 Tuesday to slash $500,000 from the town's preventive maintenance schedule for road surfaces and $550,000 that had been budgeted for sidewalk and gutter maintenance.
Cutting funding this year could also affect what projects are done years down the road, since the town's five-year capital plan is based on the assumption of the original, higher budget number growing over time.
The council vote also moved $4.4 million in future spending on street improvements from the street maintenance fund onto municipal bond funding, including the improvement of Lindsay Road between Pecos and Germann roads.
Councilwoman Linda Abbott cast the dissenting vote Tuesday. She said later her decision was based on the high priority Gilbert residents have traditionally put on road maintenance.
Abbott said she'd like to find some way to bring more citizen input into the process.
"I was thinking that it makes sense, since we're in hard economic times," she said. "I would like to see some type of input from the community on what kind of funding cuts there should be."
Councilman Dave Crozier said that approach would make sense for longer-term priorities, but officials need to respond more quickly when holes begin to appear in the budget.
He also said it's Town Manager George Pettit's job to meet with the various department heads to find out where the fat can be cut to balance the budget.
"I think that's what we have a town manager for, that's why we pay him a lot of money," he said.
Councilman Les Presmyk said the overall state of Gilbert's roads has improved a great deal since the town's pavement preservation program began about nine years ago, and he would not have supported the funding cuts if he didn't think they would be temporary.
"I have full confidence that once the economy gets better, roads will be one of the areas that first gets money, rather than new parks programs or other community needs," he said.