Jerome to put questions on March ballot

Staggered council terms, Home Rule go to voters

After two public hearings on three ballot questions, the Jerome Town Council decided to put two of the three on the March ballot for voters to decide.

Public hearings were held Oct. 3 and Oct. 7 on the issues of staggered terms for town council members, spending caps on town departments and the Home Rule Option.

Putting spending caps on departments within the town government was dropped during the Oct. 7 hearing because more research is needed on the topic. The council decided that not enough time is left before the question would have to be put on the ballot.

The question of expenditure limitations for the town, commonly referred to as the Home Rule Option, must go before Jerome voters every four years. It was passed four years ago, and now must be voted on again during the March election.

Arizona has an expenditure limitation law that applies to every municipality in the state. Essentially, the law restricts what towns and cities are allowed to budget each year. The only way around the restrictions is to pass the Home Rule Option.

Without the option in place, the state would have restricted Jerome's 2005-2006 budget to $266,167, regardless of the town's expected revenue. With an annual budget of more than $1 million, Jerome would be hard pressed to continue its present level of service, including police, streets and fire departments.

Al Palmieri, town clerk, explained that without home rule, Jerome would have had to set its budget well below its income. Even with home rule, the town does not have an open checkbook, Palmieri said. The town still must maintain a balanced budget.

Another ballot question that will be put to voters is the matter of staggered terms for the town council.

Now, Jerome's five council members are always up for reelection at the same time. That makes it possible for most, if not all, of the newly elected council to be without experience.

Staggered terms, which have been voted in and then out in Jerome, would elect three of the members to serve four-year terms starting with the council elected at the 2006 March - May election. The top three vote getters would serve four years; the two lowest vote getters would serve two years beginning with that election. When those two terms are up in 2008, the terms would become four-year terms.

Then there would be an election every two years. Three seats would be up in one election, and then the other two seats would be up two years later. That way, the council would never be left with more than two new members following any election.

Election of the mayor would remain as it is now. The council members will elect a mayor every two years.

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