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Thu, Jan. 23

ON THE ROAD AGAIN: Sedona outpaces Verde Valley municipalities in training, travel costs

In FY 2019, the City of Sedona spent more than $185,000 on employee training and travel.

Money well spent, if you ask City Manager Justin Clifton.

“I think training is essential to any organization, especially ones like local governments that rely on people to deliver services,” Clifton said Monday. “It’s no different than having computers, snow plows or wastewater equipment. It’s an essential component to doing our job well.”

Of the Verde Valley’s five municipal governments, Sedona led the way with $185,486 spent on travel and training, almost double Cottonwood’s second-place total of $97,334.

Added value

Clifton said that each time he attends a national conference of his peers, he learns something that he can implement on the job.

“Right now we are training about 20 team members in Lean practices. If implemented successfully, training in Lean will help us to serve our customers better and eliminate waste that doesn’t add value. It’s been an essential cornerstone of manufacturing for decades, but it can help us too,” the Sedona city manager said.

Clifton also said that providing additional training opportunities makes his people more valuable, and also allows his people to do work that non-employees might otherwise be needed to perform.

“Every time someone learns a new software, or even how to use existing software more efficiently, they add value to the organization and community,” Clifton said.

“A good PowerPoint presentation, for instance, is not just a fancy way to deliver the same information you could without the tool,” Clifton said. “It could be the key to creating clarity, making information relatable or memorable. Or perhaps they create the same presentation but in half of the time. Either way repays the cost of training many times over. When we develop enough skills, we can avoid the cost of consultants, where we always pay a premium.”

Travel, trainig singular budget item

Verde Valley’s municipalities consider training and travel as a singular budget item, because by and large, municipal government employees travel primarily for training.

Town of Clarkdale employees and representatives attended conferences and trainings in FY 2019 for ongoing education and maintaining certifications, said Town Clerk Mary Ellen Dunn.

In FY 2019, Clarkdale spent $29,192.99 on travel and education. At a cost of $10,342, the town’s police department went to 14 different trainings, where they learned more about interrogation, domestic violence, search and seizure, nonviolent crisis intervention, and EMT refresher.

Clarkdale spent $4,676 so its Town Council could attend the annual League of Arizona Cities and Towns conference, Arizona rural policy forum, historic preservation conference, and a training for newly-elected officials.

Said Dunn, most of the trainings and conferences Clarkdale attends allow staff to make “contacts across the region, state and country that contribute ideas and solutions for issues that arise.”

“This provides municipalities cost-free assistance that saves taxpayers thousands of dollars in time and research, and sometimes attorney fees,” she said.

Incorporating new techniques

At almost $30K, Clarkdale is near the bottom end of travel and training expenses incurred by Verde Valley’s municipalities during the 2019 fiscal year. Sedona led the way with $185,486 spent on travel and training, Cottonwood second with $97,334, followed by Camp Verde with $40,143. Jerome spent $1,782 on travel and training in FY 2019.

Melanie Atkin, Jerome’s accounting clerk, attended seminars in human resources law and human resources management, employment law, collections law, grant writing and governmental accounting and accounting/assurance conventions, while the town’s deputy clerk attended a grant writing seminar and meetings of the Arizona Municipal Clerks Association and the court clerk attended a court clerks conference.

According to Jerome Town Manager Candace Gallagher, the trainings “help to further their understanding of their job and educate them about new techniques that they can incorporate in their work.”

Trainings “also keep them informed of new laws and updates to current laws, to stay compliant,” Gallagher said.

At the City of Cottonwood, training and its connected costs are authorized for license and certification requirements, new programing, new skills, policy information, legislative updates, general training, professional training and conferences, City Manager Ron Corbin said.

“Most approvals happen at the supervisor and department level,” Corbin said.

-- Follow Bill Helm on Twitter @AZShutterbug42

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