The Mesa City Council has tentatively adopted a record $2.56 billion budget for 2023/24, which will be sent to public hearings on June 5.
The proposed budget is $260 million (11%), topping last year’s record budget of $2.3 billion.
Civic groups calling themselves concerned packed the hearings and said they wanted to tell the city council that $2.56 billion was too much and the city should curb its “overspending.”
They oppose the addition of 221 new full-time equivalents to the city’s payroll, the overall level of city debt, and the transfer of funds from the public works fund to the city’s general fund.
City manager Chris Brady said he expects this year’s budget to be larger than ever given the city and its economy’s growth, inflation, and the continued availability of federal funds under the American Relief Plan Act. said he was not surprised.
Brady said Mesa’s total budget includes operations and services under Mesa’s jurisdiction not found in other cities, including two airports and a gas company serving Queen Creek and Pinal counties and areas within the city limits. said it was also inflated by
“These are particularly large and expensive on the capital side, so that’s going to be reflected in the total budget,” Brady said.
Mesa’s proposed budget is higher than Chandler ($1.66 billion) and Scottsdale ($2.53 billion). But both make up about half of Mesa’s population.
The pandemic has pushed Mesa’s budget to new heights, with the city crossing the $2 billion mark for the first time in 2021.
The 2023-24 budget proposal is 35% higher than Mesa’s 2019-20 spending plan ($1.89 billion).
Responding to civic group criticism of the transfer of utility funds, city officials said the city of Mesa has been distributing public works funds to the public for nearly 70 years instead of collecting the major property taxes imposed in most cities in the Valley. He argued that it had been transferred to the fund.
According to a 2022 report from the Arizona Department of Administration, Mesa’s per capita debt ranks 16th in the state, but its total debt is second only to Phoenix.
Mayor John Giles touted the city’s AAA credit rating for 2022 senior debt by rating agency Fitch.
The final adopted budget sets the maximum amount the city can spend in the fiscal year beginning July 1st.
State law requires Mesa to have a balanced budget in which expenses do not exceed income.
In the coming fiscal year, the city of Mesa expects to collect more sales taxes, significantly reduce state-common income, increase capital through voter-approved bond sales, and increase revenues from services provided by the city, according to city documents. there is
There is also $158 million in spending carried forward from the current year’s budget due to project delays.
The proposed budget includes $87 million in unallocated funds for unforeseen emergencies.
Officially, the proposed budget’s theme is “innovation and inclusivity,” but Brady said he believes one of the key points of the new budget is the city’s commitment to public safety.
“Security is by far the number one priority,” he said in the budget.
Police, fire and district court funding will account for 54% of Mesa’s general government spending next year, or $352 million.
That’s about $30 million more in fire, police and courts budgets this year.
The Mesa Police Department will add 14 new professional positions, including 12 sworn officers. The ministry also has a “Downtown Ambassadors” program to fund the installation of cameras in downtown city parks.
Mesa Fire and Medical plans to add 10 full-time firefighters next year, and construction of a new Lehi fire station is also in next year’s budget.
Other newly hired positions include an Urban Forester to help the city implement its Trees are Cool initiative to grow tree canopies, two Compliance Officers and four Fleet Service Officers. included.
Salaries include the equivalent of 4,619 full-time employees, an increase of 221 full-time employees over the current budget year.
The proposed budget increases salaries and wages for Mesa employees.
In May, the council approved a memorandum of understanding with the Mesa Police Association, increasing salaries for police officers by 7% and sergeants by 6%, in addition to other benefits negotiated, and all with satisfactory job evaluations. provided a 5% tiered salary increase for all police officers. with the city.
The City of Mesa will give all other City employees a 5% “market-adjusted” salary increase starting in July, plus a 3% tiered salary increase for all eligible employees is.
The city has also added 80 hours of paid leave as childcare leave benefits. The City will provide up to 80 hours of additional parental leave if the employee contributes the same amount of paid leave.
Next year’s budget also includes work on major building projects, including the new City Hall Chamber, Police Evidence Building, Southeast Mesa Neighborhood Library, Central Reuse Pipeline, and Flare-to-Fuel Project for the City’s Northwest Water Treatment Plan. include.
Brady said next year’s budget reflects the city’s continued recovery from the pandemic.
In the city, many people are returning to city facilities such as the library.
In a presentation made by the Department of Parks, Recreation and Community Facilities before adopting the interim budget, officials said the number of attendees and events held at convention centers and amphitheaters was higher than before the pandemic. reported.
One legacy of the pandemic that will carry over into next year’s budget is the ARPA dollar.
Deputy City Manager Mike Kennington said the city has used “nearly all” of the funds allocated to the city under ARPA’s Coronavirus State and Local Financial Relief Fund, but not all of it has been used. rice field.
City officials are concerned that unused ARPA funds could be recovered by the federal government in the future.
The collection of unused ARPA funds is part of a deal between the White House and House leaders over raising the national debt ceiling, but Kennington said the city believes the allocation to Mesa “is not subject to any clawbacks.” said that
‘Concerned Citizens’ Speak Out
Carrie Davis, a CPA and former mayor of San Bernardino, Calif., has been speaking out at conferences for months about what she sees as overspending in the city, and others are on board.
Davis, who has lived in Mesa since 2019, became interested in the city’s finances during last year’s $157 million bond election.
Carey said he doesn’t think it’s wise for the city to add new recurring wages given the potential for a recession.
“Have they reviewed their divisions? Is there a way to keep costs down on last year’s budget?” he said. “If you look at Arizona, Arizona cut $300 million from last year’s budget.”
He’s also concerned about the transfer of public works funds to the General Fund, saying that Mesa’s public works projects generate more surplus revenue than any other city or town in Arizona, and that’s more than any other city government. He believes it is to cover “overspending” on the
“It seems to me that the city should consider how it can operate within its resources, the general operating resources, without using public works funds,” he said. .
At a city council meeting, the mayor and city administrators said Mesa is the only city among the top 50 largest U.S. cities to not have a major property tax, and the transfer of public works funds is a long-standing legitimate portion of its revenues. Claimed to be a replacement.
Officials say the city’s budget is balanced and financially sound.
One of Carey’s goals is to get more residents to pay attention to the city’s finances.
He said last year’s budget hearings lasted less than three minutes and no citizens came forward.
He hopes the June 5th hearing will be different.
“I thought it was clear that the community would be better served if there was a discussion[about the budget],” he says. “I think the public hearing is the right place for that.