West Valley Cities Reach Pre-recession Revenues

Via azcentral.com

Some West Valley cities are reaching revenue levels they hadn’t seen since the Great Recession, and financial plans call for spending on projects from a new bus route in Avondale to a parking garage in Peoria.

Avondale, Goodyear and Peoria are on target to surpass pre-recession levels of operating revenue.

Peoria’s general fund, a city’s biggest bucket of operating funds that is largely fed by sales-tax collections, peaked at $122 million in fiscal year 2008 before dropping in the recession.

The city’s revenues have faintly hovered below and above this figure the past two years. However, when the current budget year closes in June, Peoria’s general fund revenues should have hit an estimated $137 million – a decisive rebound, according to city figures.

Still, Peoria Budget Manager Barry Houg wasn’t willing to say Peoria has “made it back” because city operations have changed, including fewer city workers.

But there are promising signs. Peoria expects 3 percent growth in city sales-tax revenue in the budget year that opens July 1.

“The overall economy is moving,” Houg said. “Consumer confidence is coming back and people are spending, there’s the state shared (revenues), and then developers are getting back to work.”

In Avondale, a city with about half as many residents as Peoria, the general fund revenue in this budget year is estimated at $62 million , about 8 percent higher than its 2007 peak.

Similarly sized, Goodyear’s expects to close this year’s budget with $92 million in general fund revenues, $1 million more than its 2007 peak.

City leaders throughout the West Valley are going through the budget-making process this spring. Tentative budgets are typically adopted in May and the final budget is adopted in June.

While revenues are rising, so are expenses, such as for public safety, a big chunk of most cities spending.

Arizona cities continue to see rising pension costs, in part due to an state Supreme Court decision last fall that ruled a 2011 state law unconstitutionally had increased the amount public-safety employees had to contribute to their pensions. Cities must now reimburse their impacted employees.

Supreme Court ruling to cost public-safety pension trust $220M in refunds to members

Peoria will contribute 30 percent more, or $2.5 million, to the public pension trust than it did this year, and Avondale’s contributions will increase by $1.1 million in FY 2018, a 45 percent change from the current year. Goodyear pension trust fund contributions are expected to climb by $1.3 million, a 52 percent change from this year.

And cities are adding to police ranks.

Goodyear police leaders seek to add six new patrol officers, one police assistant and two dispatchers. The fire department wants to add seven new ambulance positions.

In Peoria, 12 new city jobs are proposed in the coming budget, including three police officers, two civilians to support police operations and a victims advocate. The city is opening a new 17,000-square-foot Pinnacle Peak Public Safety Facility in the north.

The proposed budget shows Avondale adding three new positions citywide, one of those in the police department for a technician to help with the implementation of officer-worn body cameras, from training to managing the data collected via cameras.

Goodyear and Avondale both expect to decrease property-tax rates and Peoria will hold steady.

Goodyear expects to reduce its property-tax rate from $1.86 to $1.73 starting July 1. Avondale’s propose drop is from $1.70 to $1.45. Peoria’s property-tax rate will remain at $1.44.

The Peoria City Council on May 16 will consider increasing its water and wastewater rates by about 2 percent.

Peoria already increased most of its planning application and civil engineering fees. The fees had not been comprehensively updated since 1998, according to the city.

The City Council will also consider increasing rental rates and hourly lighting fees at the Peoria Sports Complex, according to Deputy Finance and Budget Director Katie Gregory.

Avondale too is considering increasing most of its engineering and planning fees, and adjustments to its recreational fees for the next fiscal year. The city will look into reducing baseball field rental and field maintenance fees, for example, but increasing the minimum fee for special events at parks, among others.

In the coming budget year, Peoria plans to potentially spend $212 million on capital projects, an increase of $84 million from the current year. About $73 million of that is carry-over funds from projects that weren’t completed this year, Houg said.

Still, Peoria will invest big next year on capital projects, including a new community park in north Peoria and a $25 million parking structure for a 17-acre innovation and technology campus in the P83 district, near 83rd Avenue and Bell Road.

Goodyear’s potential capital spending is $93 million. Among the projects getting underway are a new surface water treatment facility, renovations and repairs to fire stations, and designing a new recreation campus in the area north of the Goodyear Ballpark.

Avondale’s upcoming budget proposes potential spending of $42 million for capital improvements, including the reconstruction of three streets between Main Streets and Western Avenue in its downtown and building a new Avondale Senior Center.

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