Look ahead to 2010: Gilbert - East Valley Tribune: Gilbert

Look ahead to 2010: Gilbert

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Posted: Friday, January 1, 2010 3:44 pm | Updated: 3:49 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

Gilbert's eyes are expected to be glued to the bottom line in 2010.

BUDGET

Gilbert's eyes are expected to be glued to the bottom line in 2010. The residential growth that fueled municipal projects from the utilitarian (Santan Vista Water Treatment Plant) to the unconventional (Big League Dreams) has slowed to a crawl, albeit a faster one than most of Gilbert'sneighbors.

The situation has revealed a fissure within the town's population, pitting fiscal conservatives who seek a no-frills government against more moderate conservatives who back funding services they think bolster Gilbert's quality of life by any means necessary, including sales or other tax increases.

"Clearly, the budget is going to be a driver in the upcoming year," Vice Mayor Linda Abbott said.

The council received recommendations from a Citizens Budget Committee. The body will have to decide this month whether it wants to put a quarter-cent sales tax increase on the ballot in the May election. If it's passed, an estimated $7 million would start coming in by July 1, the beginning of the fiscal year.

A proposed 1 percent use tax, expected to raise $3 million and mainly affect Salt River Project, could also be put on the ballot. The use tax was endorsed by the steering committee of the Citizens Budget Committee, but the sales tax hike was not.

CENSUS

Partly to get as much money as it can out of the cash-strapped state budget, the push is on to ensure residents fill out and return the 2010 U.S. Census forms that will be arriving in mailboxes this spring.

Arizona last revised its population-based state-shared funding formula in 2005, when the Department of Economic Security estimated Gilbert had 176,000 residents. The most recent Maricopa Association of Governments figure, based on data collected in July, put that figure at 217,521.

Town spokeswoman Beth Lucas said Gilbert will be doing everything possible to get residents to respond to the census forms, emphasizing the convenience of only having to fill out the "short forms."

Aside from the financial impacts, the census will redraw legislative and congressional districts. Some hope Gilbert will be able to have a state legislative team to itself, rather than having to share Districts 21 and 22 with neighboring communities.

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

With work continuing on the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center and the groundbreaking on the mixed-use Heritage Marketplace project downtown, town leaders hope to bolster the town's financial stability in 2010 by creating more job centers. The thought is it and other job centers put less of a demand on town services than residential development.

The University of Texas' prestigious cancer center's $90 million location next to Banner Gateway Medical Center is expected to create 575 jobs when it opens in late 2011. The positions fit neatly into the town's emphasis on the "STEM" sector, or science, technology, engineering and math.

Mayor John Lewis has touted solar energy and other high-tech uses since before taking office last June, and many tax opponents are asking the town to streamline business regulations to spur development, and along with it revenue.

GENERAL PLAN

It won't go to voters until November 2011, but a lot of time in 2010 will be put into mapping the rest of Gilbert's growth as it approaches its expected build-out population of around 330,000. Many consider this update of the town's land-use plan to be crucial as the town tries to strike a balance between residential and commercial growth.

A draft version of the chapter concerning economic development has been posted on the town's Web site. And other subcommittees are working on topics ranging from land use and growth to parks and energy use. Drafts of all the chapters are set to be completed by March, after which two months of public meetings will lead into another round of revisions and public hearings before a state-mandated election is held.

VIRTUAL COMMUNICATION

As the new decade starts Gilbert is in the midst of revamping its image on the World Wide Web, starting with the phasing out of the old-school www.ci.gilbert.az.us address. Town spokeswoman Beth Lucas said www.gilbertaz.gov has worked as an alternate route to the town home page for about 10 years, but Gilbert will be switching over to that domain over the course of the next few months, and the old one will be dropped.

Gilbert town e-mail addresses are also switching over, with employees being reassigned a firstname.lastname@gilbertaz.gov address.

A redesigned Web site is expected to launch early in the year.

Officials are increasingly using Twitter and YouTube as a platform for town announcements, and the Your Town newsletter and Leisure Pursuits parks and recreation brochure will likely become online-only publications in 2010.

GATEWAY AREA

The Gateway area is bustling with activity even as surrounding communities see development and progress come to a screeching halt. The goal of business and community leaders in 2010 is to launch themselves into the future, including the airport, commercial properties planned nearby and plans for a new state route that would buzz through the area. A study expected to be completed in late 2010 will look at how a new Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport terminal would exist in relation to the planned state Route 802.

The region also is expected to get new additions, such as a site for the East Valley Institute of Technology and the proposed Gateway Studios, which would eventually include seven sound stages for producing movies, television shows and commercials. Don't expect the Gaylord property to break ground, but the developers may finally unveil site plans for the gargantuan resort and convention center. Also, two city initiatives could get off the ground: the planned aerospace institute and a business incubator.

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