Tue, Oct. 15

Cottonwood's tentative budget approved
New projects and growth addressed

Cottonwood mayor and council approved and adopted the fiscal year 2006-2007 tentative budget. The total expenditures budget is $57,529,125. The budget unveils plans for multiple capital and construction projects and addresses issues related to growth.

"Growth continues to be the major issue facing the city in the development of the budget," wrote City Manager Brian Mickelsen in the budget document's transmittal letter. "Most of the major issues addressed in this budget are as a result of the growth we continue to experience within the city and the surrounding area."

In order to compensate for that growth, many capital and construction projects are included in the FY 06-07 budget. Some of these include:

• Airport improvement projects: The budget lists land acquisition in the airport area, the completion of the perimeter road and a runway extension. Most of the costs associated with these airport-related capital projects are grant funded.

• Library expansion: With an allocation of $1.3 million, the city plans to expand the building. According to the transmittal letter, funding for the project "has been transferred from the debt service fund restricted specifically for this purpose."

• Arsenic mitigation: Out of the budget's $12,045,585 in total capital projects, more than half is budgeted for arsenic mitigation related costs. In order to comply with new Environmental Protection Agency standards for arsenic levels, the city has budgeted $6.75 million in arsenic mitigation and related expenses in FY 06-07 only. Arsenic mitigation has been cited as a reason for higher water rates and is a financial strain on Clarkdale as well.

• Willard Street extension and Aspen Street improvement project: The $1 million Willard Street extension project will use Highway User Revenue Funds and a federal grant in the amount of $680,000 to complete. The extension will provide an alternate route from the north side of town to the south side. The general fund will contribute $300,000 for the improvements to the Aspen Street area. The general fund's operational budget is $14,443,910.

• New cemetery: "This project will continue to develop until its anticipated completion in about 2008," wrote Mickelsen. "It is quickly becoming a priority that the city provide a cemetery to the public since the existing cemetery is at capacity." Funding of $60,000 for preliminary work for this project is budgeted for FY 06-07. "The Capital Improvements Program section reflects $575,000 to be spent in FY 07-08 for the full implementation and development of a new Cottonwood cemetery."

Further future projects are listed in the Organizational Goals for the Future - FY 2007-11 section of the budget and include:

• Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant: Utilities Director Dan Lueder said the designing and siting for a new wastewater treatment plant is in the preliminary planning stages. The current plant is approaching 70 percent capacity. The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality requires planning when a facility reaches 80 percent capacity. It is expected that the facility will be on line by FY 2011-12.

• Further arsenic mitigation costs

• Construction of a new city hall to be located in Old Town.

As well as future projects, Mickelsen noted other key issues addressed in the budget. They include uncontrollable rising costs, state shared revenues, staffing and compensation, water issues, wastewater issues, cemetery and economic development.

Mickelsen cites rising fuel costs in regards to uncontrollable rising costs.

Mickelsen stressed the need for the city to continue playing an active role in water issues. These issues include water quality, availability, management, water rights, system development and fire protection. The budget includes the continuation of the part-time natural resource coordinator position shared by all the local communities.

In regards to staffing and compensation, the budget includes "a completion of the salary range adjustment plan initiated in FY 2005-06," wrote Mickelsen. "It is also calling for a 2-percent cost of living adjustment to assist employees with rising costs."

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