Question: Are city employee salaries too high? If yes, what do you base this position on and what comparisons have you made that support your opinion?
I compared the highest non-contract employee salaries in most city positions, with an annual statewide salary survey of 92 Arizona cities, which shows Cottonwood employees pay is comparable to rates in other cities. Of course some are higher/lower than average, but the city works to keep salaries competitive to avoid being a “training ground” where employees work for a short time then move to other organizations. Also, many positions in the city carry more responsibility than the same position titles outside the city. For example, our deputy city manager also fulfills duties of the finance director and administrative services manager, overseeing finance, technology, human resources, library and transit departments. Many other communities don’t even have these services therefore compensation must be adjusted accordingly. That being said, there are issues regarding the city’s “contract” employee salaries, which is being addressed by the current council as each contract comes up for renewal.
Question – The city has prepared a comprehensive analysis for providing water both inside and outside the city and found that costs are higher to provide water outside the city. The city council voted to institute higher rates for customers outside the city limits based on this data. Would you keep this differential rate structure? Please explain your answer.
The data supports differential rates due to various factors including the condition of the water systems when purchased, majority of the arsenic treatment plants being on wells outside the city and the majority of the systems outside the city require pumping (most are not gravity fed.) Both pumping and arsenic processing come at a significant cost. The simple fact is, it is not appropriate to charge the citizens of the incorporated City of Cottonwood the additional expense to process water for communities outside the corporate boundaries, therefore this differential rate structure is the fairest resolution.
Question – Does the city have an unreasonable level of debt? If so, what leads you to this conclusion and what comparisons have you made to support your position?
No, the city does not have “unreasonable” debt. A little complicated, but bear with me. The initial “debt per capita” rates calculated in 2016 (often referred to by individuals as proof of the city’s high debt) showed Cottonwood on the higher side compared to other AZ communities. However those figures did not take into consideration $5M of debt that should have been subtracted because Cottonwood (as of the city’s 2016 refinancing) no longer carries that debt (for the town of Clarkdale.) In addition, $34M of this debt should also include serving over 13,000 Verde Village users, again, who were not included in the initial 2016 calculations. Once included as part of the service population, figures drop indicating the city’s debt per capita is about $2,928 per user. This figure places the city at nearly the center of the debt-per-capita calculations when compared to other Arizona communities.