Political games at the state level over fiscal year budget 2009-10 are boiling across city lines.
As next year’s state budget remains an unknown, Sedona administrators — who depend on state funds — are trying their best to establish budgets for their governmental entities.
The city of Sedona is set to approve its FY 2009-10 budget Tuesday, June 23, and the Sedona Oak Creek School District must approve its budget by Wednesday, July 15.
The city and the school district depend on funding from the state, and leaders from both are preparing their budgets for worst-case scenarios.
Although the state must approve its budget by Tuesday, June 30, the state Capitol has reached a stalemate after legislators passed a budget proposal June 4, but still haven’t given it to Gov. Jan Brewer for her approval or veto.
On Tuesday, June 16, Brewer filed a lawsuit against the Arizona Legislature, asking the Arizona Superior Court to order the Legislature to send her the budget bills.
In court records, Brewer accuses the Legislature of violating state Constitution by refusing to send her the proposal.
Threats of a partial government shutdown in Phoenix, which would occur if a budget is not approved by June 30, echo up to the Verde Valley.
Sedona’s Interim City Manager Alison Zelms is convinced that next year will be unstable whether the state passes a budget June 30 or not.
“I think whatever choice they make it needs to be a sustainable choice that looks at the long term and I don’t know if that’s what’s happening now,” Zelms said. “I don’t envy their position. I don’t know if there’s a good answer at this point.”
From the state, the city is expected to receive $840,000 from state sales tax, $1.4 million in state revenue sharing income tax, $506,000 in vehicle license tax, $785,000 in Highway
User Revenue Fees and $49,000 in Local Transportation Assistance Funds.
Regardless of what budget the state approves, the city needs to be prepared for things to change throughout the year, Zelms said.
“We need to be ready to make the expenditure side changes that would need to go along with any reduced revenues,” she said. “If we waited to do a budget, I’m not sure we’d see that much more stability.”
According to League of Arizona Towns and Cities Executive Director Ken Strobeck, the league is researching what a partial governmental shutdown would mean for towns and cities.
“In Arizona statute, it says that we are to receive the payments, so technically it would be a violation of state statute if those payments weren’t paid,” Strobeck said.
Towns and cities would get their funding from the state whenever it was back up and running, he said, so whether or not a possible delay would be illegal, he’s not sure.
“What the specifics would be on the first day of July, we just don’t know,” he said.
At the Sedona Oak Creek School District office, Superintendent Mike Aylstock worries that a partial government shutdown of all non-vital services would include school districts in the summer.
“I really hope she doesn’t do that,” he said. “I hope she’s using it as leverage with the Legislature, but neither side seems to want to budge so there might be some drastic measures taken.”
The school district can normally plan its budget without too much concern for the state budget, Aylstock said, since it usually knows how much it’s getting based on student population and money from Proposition 301.
“But with everything going on down there, none of us are willing to outguess them,” he said.
To prepare for the worst, SOCSD issued 23 Reduction In Force notices to first year teachers in May, and have called back nine so far.
“We’ve already had some teachers who have found jobs in other locations, which we knew was going to happen,” Aylstock said of handing out notices before the state decides its budget, something school districts are required to do by May 15. “It’s sad that we’re losing good, talented people, but that’s the price we have to pay right now.”