YUMA, Ariz. – Hundreds of Yuma residents sat in on the city council meeting to express their concern over budget cuts. After mandated state reductions the city of Yuma needed to find ways cut $2.7 million dollars for the new 2015-2016 fiscal year budget starting on July 1st.
The original estimated budget was $212 million dollars, but by the end of the meeting the council was able to reduce to about $205 million dollars.
Basic cuts included: approximately $3.6M from CIP funds, or the Capital Improvement Program, $1.9M from various departments and programs, and a $900K reduction from the original requested tax levy.
The two biggest issues brought the attention of the city council were cuts to parks and rec programs and raising taxes. While twenty people requested time to speak at the podium to address concerns the council started by announcing they would not cut any parks and rec programs. Allowing many of those speakers to thank council members in place of asking for them to refrain from eliminating activities.
“This is where the rubber meets the road this where the decisions are made and the more input we have the better,” Mayor Doug Nicholls said.
Yuma boys baseball league president George Owens said the programs are essential to reducing crime in the streets by keeping kids active. Owen, also works in the court system, and says recent statistics show extracurricular activities keep kids out of trouble.
“The bottom line is we never looked at parks and rec as being up there with law enforcement or fire fighters but you really have to consider them being an important element in reducing crime in the community,” George Owens said.
While none of the programs were cut officials say there is a possibility fees for programs could increase in the future.
“There could still be a potential small raise in the future, but that’s something the city administrator and the department head will need to determine,” Mayor Doug Nicholls said.
After all the reductions the budget still needed almost one million dollars. They finally determined they needed to implement a future tax levy. Property taxes will raise 24 cents. For a home owners that means on a house that costs $100K they will have to pay about $24 dollars more per year. For commercial owners the sum is larger sparking a debate.
“High water fees, high sewer fees, high taxes, don’t incentivise people to come to town,” Robert Ingold said.
Ingold owns the only master planned industrial park in town he says raising taxes hurts business owners who have to pass fees to tenants. He says he knows the council worked hard to establish a budget that works, but there are a number of reductions he feels could have been made to prevent this tax increase.
According to officials 14 percent of taxes come from the city. Other taxes include Yuma County, Flood Control, Library, Yuma SD #1, Yuma Union High School, and Arizona Western College.