City of Mesa staff working to close budget gaps amid projected shortfall - East Valley Tribune: Business

City of Mesa staff working to close budget gaps amid projected shortfall

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Posted: Wednesday, April 17, 2013 8:14 am | Updated: 2:05 pm, Wed Apr 24, 2013.

Back in February, the Mesa City Council was predicting a budget shortfall of between $8 million and $9 million for the 2013-14 fiscal year.

During a study session Monday, city staff showed that the hurdle is not insurmountable — especially in a city that has had to make up shortfalls more than five times those figures during the past few years.

Specifically, staff showed that it had already located an additional $5.8 million to plug the gap.

Management and Budget Director Candace Cannistraro explained to Mayor Scott Smith and the rest of the council ways the city can find more money.

It includes $3.5 million in cuts to employer contributions to the Employee Benefits Trust; $1 million by adjusting the water rate the city charges itself; $800,000 from a predicted rise in new home construction; and another $500,000 in anticipated general obligation bonds refunding savings.

“It appears that the cost containment measures that we put in a year and two years ago have really come to fruition,” Cannistraro said.

Cannistraro and City Manager Chris Brady explained that city staff is not only looking for ways to plug the estimated shortfall, which only accounts for the current level of staff and services, but department demands, employee compensation and other additional expenses that will add to the deficit.

Smith was optimistic, considering that four years ago, when he and the City Council were only five weeks into their first terms, they faced a $65 million shortfall – “And this is after watching the previous council really, really struggle with $20 million,” he recalled.

“I have complete confidence,” Smith said. “We figured out a way to deal with that; we’ll figure out a way to deal with this one ... It may not be easy, it may not be fun, but we’ll get there.”

City staff also mentioned the following ideas to raise more shortfall-containment funds:

  • Increase Enterprise Fund Transfer to the General Fund.
  • Increase Secondary Property Tax Rate.
  • Increase Environmental Compliance Fee Rate.

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