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4/8/2014 10:37:00 AM
Home Rule back on ballot Aug. 26
City officials say Williams residents must approve Home Rule to avoid fiscal disaster

Marissa Freireich
Williams-Grand Canyon News Reporter

WILLIAMS, Ariz. - The city of Williams is seeking the authority to determine how much money it can spend in the next four years, rather than following state-imposed spending limitations.

Williams voters approved an alternative expenditure limitation, also known as the home rule option, in 1990. This summer voters may decide whether the city continues to use the home rule option for the next four years, starting with fiscal year 2014-2015.

The Williams City Council discussed the issue at a public hearing April 3. A second public hearing will take place April 10 at 7 p.m. at 113 S. First St. At that meeting, the council may vote to put the item on the ballot for Aug. 26.

The home rule option would grant the city expenditure authority for all local budgetary purposes, including operation and maintenance of current services. This includes general government operations, culture and recreation, public safety, health and welfare, debt service, economic development, highways and streets, electric system, water and sewer system, sanitation services, golf course and airport, public safety and community development block grants.

If voters approve the home rule option, the city estimates it would be allowed to spend the following amounts in the next four years, based on the estimated revenue that will be available: $19,976,079 in 2014-2015, $20,250,610 in 2015-2016, $20,590,165 in 2016-2017, and $20,938,136 in 2017-2018.

Those dollar amounts are estimates and may be more or less depending on available revenues, said Finance Director Keith Buonocore.

"So if we experience higher revenues you have the authorization to spend that money," Buonocore said. "If it comes in lower then we just don't spend as much because we don't have the revenues."

If voters do not approve the home rule option, the city will have to follow state-imposed expenditure limits. This would restrict spending to about $11,023,358 in 2014-2015, $11,072,963 in 2015-2016, $11,279,818 in 2016-2017, and $11,413,443 in 2017-2018.

Those numbers are based on a formula that starts with the city's expenditures in 1979-1980 and takes into account population changes, inflation and estimated exclusions.

"It's based on when cities were spending, spending, spending and the state legislature wanted to put a cap on that," said Buonocore about the origin of the spending limits.

Vice Mayor Don Dent noted that the difference in the proposed home rule option and the state's spending limit for the next fiscal year is about $8,900,000.

"It would devastate us," Dent said of what would happen if the home rule option did not pass.

Dent added that he didn't know of any cities that had not approved the home rule option.

"I think it's our job to make sure people know how important it is, that for us to continue to operate this needs to pass," Dent said.

Buonocore agreed.

"It's passed, because the government would just fall apart if you had to go back to those numbers," Buonocore said.

If the council decides to seek voter approval for the home rule option, Dent said it would be critical that the item does not get lost on the ballot.

"I've made this statement before and I'll make it again: that's the most important issue on the ballot," Dent said. "It's not who they elect, it's whether there's any money they can spend. Because if this doesn't pass, it doesn't matter who you elect, they couldn't do anything."

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Reader Comments

Posted: Friday, April 18, 2014
Article comment by: John Conner

I'll vote for it if that frees up money to run the pool year round like it used to be. Better to fund that than waste it on no parking signs.

Posted: Thursday, April 17, 2014
Article comment by: Williams Taxpayer

People perish for lack of vision...
as a Williams property owner for over 25 years I do not want our town to die. We must continue to provide efficient, relevant and current to the times services for everyone. There is no way around it money is required.

Posted: Saturday, April 12, 2014
Article comment by: John Aguilar

First our legislators changed the law so that all elections are held the same as all other elections so just like our city council members get a couple extra months on council home rule also carries over.

Second Williams tax payer you have no idea what your talking about, get educated about not only our city but all other cities and school districts which need home rule although schools call it a over ride before you spout off. Without home rule good luck getting any city services. The city would have to lay off half of every department in the city.

Posted: Friday, April 11, 2014
Article comment by: Misty Circle

This is not good. Home Rule Election is typically held in March. Fiscal Year ends June 30. How can a budget be adopted for the next Fiscal Year with no Home Rule? Will the state take control of the city's money? Will key positions be lost? How will our city be funded for those 2 months? It looks like someone messed up big time!

Posted: Tuesday, April 8, 2014
Article comment by: Williams Taxpayer

Typical govt response...if we have the money we will spend it...I say vote NO

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