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Joyce Clark Unfiltered

For "the rest of the story"

Disclaimer: The comments in this blog are my personal opinion and may or may not reflect an adopted position of the city of Glendale and its city council.

Hold on to your hats, folks. This will be a rather long opinion piece as I have much to say.

I am mindfully aware that one of the prime directives of my job as a councilmember is to represent my constituency…the residents of the Yucca district. Their voice is my voice. They do not possess the power, money and privilege of the pro-Stonehaven contingent. Over 1,000 of my district residents have signed a petition in opposition to Stonehaven’s latest version of its proposed residential plan. These are the people who live in adjoining neighborhoods and will receive the full negative brunt of this proposal. They are the people for whom I speak.

Since this is my last term as a councilmember I possess a precious freedom that no others serving on Glendale’s council may have and that is, complete freedom. I can advocate for and take positions that I believe to be right without fear of retribution when the next election season rolls around. In this context, the opinions I am about to express regarding the Stonehaven application are mine and offered without fear or favor. Some will agree and others will disagree. That is to be expected.

Just as we have all heard of the Washington “establishment” aimed at protecting its power, money and privilege, every community in the country, large or small, has its own version of the “establishment.” Glendale is no different.

Lately, the local Chamber, the local newspaper and the local fire union (no surprise there) have announced their support for the latest iteration of Stonehaven. They all represent elements of Glendale’s “establishment.” The “establishment” circles the wagons when one of their own is in danger for that danger could spread and diminish them as well. All it takes is a well placed phone call or conversation with the “right” people. In “establishment” code it’s a plea for help with the veiled notion that it may be their ox gored next and if they expect reciprocal support, then it’s time to ante up.

Then we have the city’s Planning Department. I understand the tremendous pressure they are experiencing. When the Stonehaven applicants proposed 3,000 square foot lots, the Planning Department made it clear that it could not support the concept for Glendale doesn’t even have a zoning classification for 3,000 SF lot sizes. Hence the applicant’s quick pivot to 4,000/4,500 SF lots for Glendale does possess such a zoning classification. The Planning Department cannot be discriminatory and if it has accepted other projects with 4,000 square foot lots, it must be fair and do so in this case. You will hear the statement from the Planning Department that the Stonehaven amendment is “consistent” with Glendale’s General Plan.

But what you will not hear is that 4,000/4,500 SF lots have never been implemented on such a large scale. Yes, Glendale has seen small tracts of such sized lots and it may be used on small-scale infill projects. Hence the Planning Department’s statement of “consistency” with the General Plan. But it has never, in the city’s history, been used where 44% of a new 365 acre subdivision will have such small lots. It is incumbent upon the Planning Department to show where a subdivision of similar size and scope was permitted with at least 40% of the project consisting of 4,000/4,500 square foot lots. If that is their position I expect them to defend it with some relevant examples.

The pro-Stonehaven contingent is touting their $400 million dollar investment in Glendale implying that we should be ever so grateful. Don’t kid yourselves. They are not doing this out of the goodness of their hearts. We’ve all seen the term, Return on Investment (ROI). That $400 million dollar investment will reap them a hefty profit (ROI). How much? Only they know but we can assume it is substantial or they wouldn’t be pulling out all of the stops to make it happen.

The Stonehaven proponents also tout the benefit of the connectivity to be derived from the construction of Bethany Home Road between 83rd Avenue and 91st Avenue. In an agreement between the city and the John F. Long Trust Bethany Home Road does not have to be completed until January 1, 2021.  What you don’t hear is that the city will pay $1.2 million for the north half of Bethany’s right-of-way (ROW). Where will this payment come from? From the Development Impact Fees (DIF) paid to the city.  Each home buyer pays DIF as it is incorporated by the developer into the price of each home in this subdivision. DIF is used to improve the infrastructure surrounding the new development in terms of libraries, parks, roads, etc. Not in this case, the DIF will be used to pay for right-of-way. This is precedent setting for historically the city has not had to pay for ROW for a new subdivision.

The applicants like to refer to Stonehaven as an “infill” project. Here are some conclusions from national studies done on infill:

  1. The smaller homes associated with the increased density of the project will generate lower property tax revenues, yet it increases the burden on the city’s cost for the provision of services as the new residents use them.
  2. Existent nearby residents bear all of the costs associated with this new infill development in increased traffic and congestion in local schools even though it may provide a benefit to the community as a whole as the city receives state shared revenue benefits from an increase in population.
  3. There is a negative impact for those properties in close proximity to the new, denser subdivision, but a positive impact for those properties at a greater distance.
  4. Lower income neighborhoods tend to benefit from infill development and higher income areas had property values decline.
  5. Larger projects, such as this one, magnify the negative effects more so than smaller infill projects.

What did the April 16, 2016 approved Stonehaven plan consist of? It was a balanced plan that the adjacent neighborhoods accepted.

  • R 1-5 (5,500 SF lots) on 43% of site area
  • R 1-7 (7,000 SF lots) on 36% of site area
  • R 1-8 (8,000 SF lots) on 21% of site area

Now look at the changes requested in the new proposal.

  • R 1-4 (4,000 and 4,500) SF lots on 44% of site
  • R 1-5 (5,000 SF lots) on 22.4% of site area
  • R 1-6 (6,000 SF lots) on 17.9% of site area
  • R 1-7 (7,000 SF lots) on 16% of site area

As a comparison Rovey Farm Estates built 10 years ago is a subdivision of 300 acres north of this proposed project. It is comparable in many ways and has 800 lots ranging in size from 7,000 to 17,000 SF. More recent subdivisions close by such as Boardwalk Place built in 2010 has lot sizes from 7,000 to 12,000 SF and the newest subdivision still under construction is Catania, with lot sizes that start at 5,000 SF. Yet another new subdivision, Horizons at Camelback, has lot sizes ranging from 5, 750 SF to 9, 179 SF. All of these subdivisions demonstrate lot size diversity but not one of them in west Glendale has lot sizes as small as 4,000/4,500 square feet.

The applicant rationalizes the diversity of small lots as more appealing to millennials. Yet an article in the May 12,2017 Wall Street Journal said, “Outside Las Vegas, Tri Pointe home builders has introduced a new-home design that is specifically targeted to millennial buyers, featuring indoor-outdoor patio areas and deck spaces, as well as a separate downstairs bedroom and bathroom suite that could be rented out to a housemate. Building executives said one challenge is that many are buying first homes later in life, meaning they have higher incomes and greater expectations molded by years of living in downtown luxury rentals.”

Perhaps the most impactful to adjacent neighborhoods and families is increased traffic and overcrowded schools. Before Bethany Home Road is completed in January of 2021 and while Stonehaven is being built out, daily traffic trips on Camelback will grow from its current daily count of 25,000 to over double, 54,000 trips. When Bethany is completed the daily trip count on Camelback will drop to 41,000, considerably more than the current count of 25,000. Similar situations occur on 83rd Ave. and 91st Ave. between Bethany and Camelback. This subdivision will intensify local traffic even with the eventual completion of Bethany Home Road.

Who is most impacted by this traffic increase? The Camelback Park subdivision just east of Stonehaven will bear the brunt as well as the traffic to Sunset Ridge Elementary School. 87th Avenue is one of only two primary entries for Camelback Park residents. Now it will also serve as a primary entry for Stonehaven. I am very concerned for the Camelback Park residents for even with a widened 87th Avenue their ability to get in and out of their subdivision will be aversely compromised.

These very same residents will face other difficulties as a result of Stonehaven. While Stonehaven offers the requisite 15% of park/open space, the applicants emphasize and seem to rely upon the connectivity of Stonehaven to Camelback Park’s 3 acre Pasadena Park, Sunset Ridge’s joint 10 acre school/city park and of course, the 20 year, still unfinished Heroes Park. While Stonehaven has 9.1 acres of community park, the balance of 50 acres of open space includes entryway landscaping, perimeter landscaping, street landscaping and the inevitable retention areas doubling as open space and trails.

Pulte currently has about 20 subdivisions. In one of them, Parkside at Anthem, Florence, the house price starts at $146,990. At that subdivision Pulte is offering a recreation center with indoor rock climbing and an indoor basketball court along with a splash water park, lighted tennis courts and a softball stadium. At its Bella Via subdivision, Mesa, they offer adventure playgrounds, basketball courts, a dog park and an amphitheater. Pulte is offering no such amenities in Stonehaven. Why not?

There is no doubt that the two closest elementary schools, Sunset Ridge and Desert Mirage, will be under tremendous pressure. The applicants have received approval from the Pendergast Elementary School District and the Tolleson Union High School district. Little noted is another common practice usually unrecognized by the general public.  Built into the cost of every Stonehaven home will be a dollar amount that will be donated to the school districts to offset the cost of accommodating new students. Could any school district’s, including these districts, motive for approval of this increased density be the result of this typical practice of a home builder donation per house built? It is quite possible that the Pendergast School district will have to accommodate another estimated 1,000 K-8 students. In the last Pendergast bond issue recently approved by voters there is money to expand Sunset Ridge Elementary School but there is nothing allotted for an expansion of Desert Mirage Elementary School.

Finally Stonehaven proponents emphasize the $40 million the city will derive in taxes. In that amount they even count the utilities tax that we pay on our phone, cable bills, etc. They forget to mention this amount is over the lifetime of the project…10 years or better. They make it sound as if the city will receive this amount in one fell swoop.

However, one interesting factoid I learned many years ago is that roof tops (homes) do not pay for themselves on a long term annual basis. In other words, a city loses about $200 per home annually (that is an old figure. I don’t know the current figure). What does that mean? The amount of annual tax generated per home in sales tax, property tax, etc., does not cover the cost of services provided by a city. That is why the life blood of any city isn’t in roof tops but in its commercial, retail, manufacturing, etc. development for those facilities produce taxes that help to offset the loss caused by homes.

This proposed project does not hold the promise of upgrading Glendale. It reminds me of old, 1970s zoning and planning where the smallest lots and consequently the smallest homes are placed behind or adjacent to commercial development. That’s the promise of the Stonehaven plan for the 4,000 SF and the 4,500 SF lots are behind the proposed grocery store center and the proposed restaurant row.  Can you imagine millennials or seniors wanting to live behind a grocery store or restaurant with the lights, the smells and the noise of delivery trucks an estimated 35 feet away from their property?

This kind of plan also reminds me of the old Maryvale. The only difference being is that at least John F. Long offered the public 6,000 SF sized lots…not lots of 4,000 or 4,500 SF in size. This proposed amendment and zoning does not upgrade our community. This large, 365 acre parcel of land deserves to be developed in a manner designed to showcase living in west Glendale and to which all can point with pride.  How much pride will these 4,000 and 4,500 SF lots and homes evoke 5 or 10 years after they are built?

What do power, money and privilege get? They get their way… at the expense of nearby residents who live in stable communities and who don’t want the increased traffic, school overcrowding, and even more pressure on their scant park system. They don’t want small lots with small homes destined to become a sea of rentals harvesting nothing but lower property values for those residents surrounding it.

What was so terrible about the existing, approved plan of 2016? Nothing with one exception…it isn’t dense enough for the applicants. Do you ever wonder how much an additional 204 homes will raise the profitability quotient for those involved? And is it worth it… to us?

© Joyce Clark, 2017          

FAIR USE NOTICE

This site contains copyrighted material the use of which is in accordance with Title 17 U.S. C., Section 107. The ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Section 107 of the US Copyright Law and who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democratic, scientific and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such material. For more information go to http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use,’ you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Disclaimer: The comments in this blog are my personal opinion and may or may not reflect an adopted position of the city of Glendale and its city council.

On May 18, 2017 as a Council Item of Special Interest the Glendale City Council approved my request for a temporary council subcommittee on business. Its purpose is to review all codes, ordinances, regulations, policies, etc., associated with businesses in Glendale. This initiative has never been accomplished since the city’s inception in 1912. Over the years there are sure to be outdated and redundant regulations that can be eliminated. It’s an opportunity for the business community to tell Glendale what it’s doing right and where there can be improvement.

The article below by Cecila Chan for Your West Valley News of May 1, 2017, sums it up very nicely:

Glendale to establish subcommittee to help businesses

May 1, 2017 Business

Cecilia Chan Independent Newsmedia

“Glendale wants to improve its climate to keep and grow the business community in the city.

City Council last week in study session agreed to move forward with the creation of a temporary subcommittee and to solicit feedback from the business community. Mayor Jerry Weiers was absent. The item is expected to come before Council at its next voting meeting.

” ‘This sends a positive message to all business large and small in Glendale that we are interested in them and what they do,’ said Councilwoman Joyce Clark, who came up with the idea. ‘It sends a positive message to businesses thinking about moving here that we are serious about improving the business climate. I’m not saying it’s bad but it can be made better.’

“The one-year subcommittee will be made up of three council members and representatives from the business community who will review the city’s codes and make recommendations to the Council.

“Ms. Clark said during her time on the Council off and on since 1992, there has never been a review of the city’s policies, regulations or laws pertaining to businesses in Glendale.

“The subcommittee will remove outdated, ineffective and redundant business regulations on the city’s books, she added.

“The committee will look at everything the city does relating to business and see where it can become more business-friendly and enhance its reputation as the premier business community in the Valley, Ms. Clark said.

“Development Services Director Sam McAllen said the subcommittee would take an average of two to three hours a week of staff time. For the duration of the committee, it is estimated to take 1,040 hours to 1,560 hours of staff time, he added.

“Councilman Ray Malnar suggested increasing the seven- member committee to include a contractor or builder because that profession, which creates job opportunities in Glendale, is affected by city fees and policies.

“Councilman Jamie Aldama suggested adding two representatives, one from the minority business community and one from a woman-owned business.

“Councilman Bart Turner said the idea of a subcommittee is a worthy endeavor, however, it is a step too soon.

“He cited the large use of staff hours, a city resource.

“Instead, he suggested the city find out what the issues and/or frustrations are for businesses in Glendale by getting it from the members of the Glendale Chamber of Commerce, soliciting input at city hall’s second-floor service counter and establishing a hotline for merchants.

“Try that for a year and then see if the committee is still needed, Councilman Turner said.

“Councilman Aldama asked what the staff hours equated to in money.

“Mr. Allen said staff only went as far as to identify which departments would be involved in the committee. Departments involved include Building Safety, Fire Marshal, Planning, Economic Development and City Attorney.

Councilman Aldama noted despite the cost of creating the committee, its recommendations would generate more revenue for Glendale.

Councilwoman Lauren Tolmachoff suggested the council move forward on both proposals.

” ‘I have no problem doing both at the same time,’ she said.

“The council also agreed to expand the subcommittee to 11 to 13 members, taking in Councilmen Aldama’s and Malnar’s suggestions.

Staff estimated the new subcommittee could be up and running within three to four months upon approval.”

© Joyce Clark, 2017               

FAIR USE NOTICE

This site contains copyrighted material the use of which is in accordance with Title 17 U.S. C., Section 107. The ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Section 107 of the US Copyright Law and who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democratic, scientific and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such material. For more information go to http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use,’ you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Disclaimer: The comments in this blog are my personal opinion and may or may not reflect an adopted position of the city of Glendale and its city council.

I belong to an online site called nextdoor.com . This site connects neighbors to neighbors within their neighborhood as well as connecting nearby neighborhoods to one another. You can post general messages, want ads, items for sale, event notices, etc. It’s a great site and I urge you to check it out.

The other day this question was posted, “Does anyone know any updates on casino? It seems like it is in a standstill with moving forward with construction.”  It was posted to 41 neighborhoods in my general area on April 26, 2017. It was as if a bomb had gone off. It generated more replies than any other issue I have seen lately. There was not only a great deal of misinformation posted but there were replies like, “Which casino sorry Glendale?”

It’s time to offer an update on the TO casino. As of today, May 6, 2017 the last Arizona District Court minute entry was posted on February 10, 2017, 3 months ago, “MINUTE ENTRY for proceedings held before Judge David G Campbell: Telephone Conference held on 2/8/2017. Plaintiff State of Arizona request a 45 day extension of the response to 263 MOTION for Attorney Fees . Discussion held. Request granted. Response due 3/31/2017 .”

As you can see from this minute entry there are procedures and pre-trial motions that must be adjudicated (settled) before a bench trial before Judge Campbell may begin. It could be months before the case is argued before the judge. In other words, it’s at a standstill.

This case revolves around the Tohono O’odham’s (TO) attempt to get a Class III license from the State of Arizona. Until this case is settled there will be nothing but bingo (and no liquor) at the Desert Diamond Casino located on a county island in the midst of Glendale, just north of the Westgate area. The temporary casino located in the Tohono O’odham’s warehouse facility will continue as the only operation on the site. Those who have visited this casino are quick to point out that it’s not on a par with Talking Stick Casino and Resort. Factually, it will never be a Class A facility unless the TO get their Class III license. Will that occur? Only Judge Campbell will have the answer when he rules on the current case before him.

Here is the comment from a local resident who used to work at this casino, “They also want to build another one up here somewhere (on the Glendale site). I don’t remember exactly but…on the east side (of the site). I think… they are fighting for both now. When it opened they told us one year to the day we would be walking into the new one. Well that passed Dec 20th.”

This resident’s comment sparked a new round of replies, “For me it was just a crappy sneaky deal all around. As I know the facts, it was a Federal land swap. The feds didn’t ask or didn’t want to ask or didn’t care to ask what their plan was for the property and didn’t put casino restrictions on it, right across the street from the high school, and didn’t inform the local government. Everybody dropped the ball letting the tribe do whatever. I don’t know what the Grand plan and or timeframe, but if they turned the entire property into a family friendly resort with pool, water park, rides, par 3 golf, hotel, etc……. I don’t have an issue with the casino.”

Or this comment, “I’m wondering if the City of Glendale was notified. Isn’t that property within the city limits? If so??? I also wonder what land did the Fed’s swap? The issue for me is if all the tribes signed an agreement not to develop a casino in an urban area and this tribe somehow managed to have the land swapped and designated as tribal land they should not be granted a full gambling license. Just my opinion.”

I must offer a little history in answer to these comments. In 2001 the state began negotiations with all Arizona tribes to craft a gaming compact. At the same time (2001-02) the Tohono O’odham were already land shopping in urban areas of Maricopa County. They formed a shell company, Reiner, which purchased the land in Glendale. This purchase was kept secretly while the TO participated in the negotiations and paid for publicity pamphlets asking voters to approve the Gaming Act of 2002. It wasn’t until the TO publicly announced their intention in 2009 (7 years later…7 years a secret closely guarded) to build a casino on a county island within Glendale that the public or Glendale knew of their plans.

It was not a federal land swap per se. The Gila River Act of 1985 allowed the TO to purchase land in Maricopa County because the federal government had flooded their land when it built a new dam. It made the TO’s land unsustainable for agriculture. No one, except the TO, believe that it was legal to purchase land for a casino in an urban area rather than adhering to the intent of this law which was to acquire useable agricultural land to replace lands that were lost to flooding.

Glendale joined in lawsuits with virtually every Tribe in the state to fight the TO casino…until August of 2014. The city sold its soul for 30 pieces of silver. It entered into an agreement with the TO agreeing to withdraw all official opposition to the project, and would adopt a new resolution expressing support for the Tohono O’odhams’ acquisition of the property and for the casino. 

The Tohono O’odhams, in exchange, would pay for any infrastructure improvements needed in the area to accommodate the additional traffic the casino would generate. It would also give Glendale a one-time payment of $500,000, and annual payments of $1.4 million, which would increase by two percent a year.

As a Glendale city councilmember it is my obligation and duty to uphold Glendale policy. If the TO were to come to the city I have a duly sworn obligation to give them a full and fair hearing without bias. This, I would endeavor to do. On a personal level that doesn’t mean I agree with or even like this agreement.  For I do not.

Another resident comment expressed, “They won’t start building until they get a class 3 license. It is supposed to go back to court in May. The state is still fighting the casino. The state needs to give it up and let them build. They are wasting taxpayers money by fighting it.” Many feel this way but they are willing to overlook the deception and extreme breach of ethics by the TO in dealing with the state and its sister Tribes during the gambling compact negotiations and during the effort to gain voter approval for the compact in 2002. These stakeholders believe the TO lied to them by having secretly already purchased land for a casino in an urban area and that is a very difficult bridge to repair. It’s an action that is precedent setting and puts every Valley city in peril for who is to say which city will become the next host to a tribal casino?

One resident offered this link to a study on the economic impact of tribal casinos. It’s a good read:

http://www.uwyo.edu/shogren/gaming%20and%20casino%20economics.htm . Finally, I end with this resident’s comment on casinos, “Casinos are, in my opinion, a tax on people bad at math. You know who you will never see in a casino? Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, Charles Koch, Michael Bloomberg, Jeff Bezos, Larry Ellison, Mark Zuckerburg… or any of the other richest people in the USA. Because they understand math better than most of us.” Maybe it would help if we all got better at math.

© Joyce Clark, 2017               

FAIR USE NOTICE

This site contains copyrighted material the use of which is in accordance with Title 17 U.S. C., Section 107. The ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Section 107 of the US Copyright Law and who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democratic, scientific and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such material. For more information go to http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use,’ you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Disclaimer: The comments in this blog are my personal opinion and may or may not reflect an adopted position of the city of Glendale and its city council.

On Friday, April 28, 2017 Glendale city council had another all day budget workshop to continue its review of departmental budgets. Here’s how these department budget totals lined up in terms of total increases or decreases over the Fiscal Years of 2016-17 and 2017-18;

  • Budget, Finance and Non-Departmental     64.76% decrease                                           (this is an anomaly explained by the removal of two line items, Arena Events and the AZSTA stadium tax refund). In actuality this department will see a 6.24% increase in this year’s proposed budget.
  • Public Facilities and Events                         10.10% increase
  • Economic Development                              20.59% increase
  • Public Affairs                                               7.27% increase
  • Office of the Mayor                                      8.9%  increase
  • City Council Office                                     17.06% increase
  • Innovation and Technology                        13.60% increase
  • City Manager’s Office                                  2.15% decrease
  • City Clerk                                                 35.75% increase 
  • Water Services (Enterprise Fund)                 5.21% increase
  • Public Works (Enterprise Fund)                    3.17% increase

Budget, Finance, Non-Departmental. The issue within this department’s budget continues to remain the acquisition of and implementation of a city-wide ERP system called Munis. For years the city has utilized a system called PeopleSoft. From what I have heard some PeopleSoft modules were never fully implemented nor was staff adequately trained on the use of some of its modules. In addition, a year and a half ago the city paid $1.2 million to upgrade the Human Resources component of PeopleSoft. Oracle, the parent company of PeopleSoft has announced that it will continue to support the PeopleSoft system until 2027.

Staff contends that PeopleSoft requires a great deal of manual input and output with modules that cannot be tailored to the city’s needs in the 21st century. It, with the assistance of a consultant, has identified a system called Munis, tailored to the needs of local governmental needs. The cost of acquisition and implementation is $6 million over 3 fiscal years. While I believe they have made a case for acquisition of the Finance modules, I am not convinced that the abandonment of the HR PeopleSoft system, recently upgraded, is critical and warranted right now. Further discussion of this item will occur at council’s next budget meeting of Tuesday, May 2, 2017.

Public Facilities and Events.  A great deal of council conversation continues to center on the Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) and its use of the city’s bed tax revenues. My question continues to be why does it cost the city $407,602 to administer this tax? Up until now the CVB has concentrated its advertising dollars (funded by the bed tax) toward a select group of downtown businesses. Council indicated quite clearly that advertising of downtown businesses must be more inclusionary and that advertising dollars should be directed to all businesses in Glendale rather than just the downtown core.

Economic Development. The major conversation was the acquisition of a Downtown Manager for $125,000 annually. A Request for Proposals was issued and the contract will be awarded to the Glendale Chamber of Commerce.  Major deliverables in this contract include the establishment of a downtown merchants’ association and a full and complete current inventory of all downtown properties. While these are major tasks if they are not or cannot be accomplished during the contract’s first year the contract could be terminated.

Public Affairs.  The realignment of departments under the new City Manager Kevin Phelps created this new department. Its focus is primarily public relations for the city. Within this department is the city’s cable TV division. If you are a Cox subscriber you have the opportunity to visit Channel 11 to see some award winning programming.

Office of the Mayor and City Council Office. The Mayor and City Council are the most visible representatives of our city. We serve in so many ways: representation of the city on national, regional and local levels; we are your voice and our prime directive is to represent your interests and concerns; and we make policy decisions for the entire city. During the recession these two divisions, just as all other departments, reduced the number of support staff making us lean but not so mean. Since my last service as a councilmember in 2012 and my return in 2016 I am surprised that elected officials’ duties and responsibilities have increased significantly. When I returned to council I staffed myself for the first four months. I was able to experience, up close and personally, how much work a council assistant must perform. Yet a council assistant staffs two councilmembers. It is an impossible situation. The move toward a council assistant for each councilmember is long overdue.

Innovation and technology. This is an area that merits further scrutiny. Many departments now have their own IT support or pay for it annually as part of a licensing contract for specialized software. Training on new software is often also included in the purchase of specialized software. Has our IT department become no more than glorified support for the city’s vast numbers of personal computers at work stations? I don’t know but it is an area that deserves in-depth discussion by council.

City Manager’s Office. The city manager sets an example for the entire city and a reduction in his budget is symbolic for the organization. He is demonstrating that more can be done with less in some circumstances. Mr. Phelps has demonstrated his abilities to tackle tough issues and to create new initiatives that will benefit the city over the long-term.

City Clerk. While election season takes a brief hiatus (at the end of this year, 2017, candidates for the Ocotillo, Barrel and Cholla city council seats will be able to take out nominating petitions) the City Clerk’s election budget shrunk to $2,000. Yet in this information age, the number of documents, contracts, correspondence, etc., has exploded. Most of these materials must be retained per state or city policy.  The increase in this department budget is to meet this need.

Water Services and Public Works. These areas are Enterprise Funds meaning they rely upon residents’ use of and monthly payment for these services. Their revenues are your monthly payments for water, sewer, sanitation and landfill. These departments are the worlds of engineers. They understand numbers. As a result, their budgets are very clean and comprehensive. It’s always a pleasure to review these departmental budgets because they are so clear. There are two major initiatives in these areas. During the recession, water services delayed many major repair and maintenance projects. There is now the opportunity to address these issues and in addition, an opportunity to plan for future needs by beginning to build redundancy into the system of water delivery. Public works’ major initiative now and for the next 5 years is the pavement management program. Over the next 5 years the entire system of streets in the city will receive some form of remediation, long over-due. In addition, a suggestion I made will also be implemented by changing the city’s street lighting to LED will save the city approximately half a million dollars a year.

The next budget workshop is Tuesday, May 2, 2017 and begins at 1:30 PM. It had originally been scheduled for 9 AM but a change to the afternoon became necessary. If you would like to watch this workshop you can view it on Cox TV cable channel 11 or online at www.glendaleaz.com, at cable channel 11.

© Joyce Clark, 2017               

FAIR USE NOTICE

This site contains copyrighted material the use of which is in accordance with Title 17 U.S. C., Section 107. The ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Section 107 of the US Copyright Law and who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democratic, scientific and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such material. For more information go to http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use,’ you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Disclaimer: The comments in this blog are my personal opinion and may or may not reflect an adopted position of the city of Glendale and its city council.

On Monday, 24, 2017 in an all day budget workshop city council had the opportunity to review and ask questions of about half of the city’s departmental budgets. The remaining departmental budgets will be reviewed on Friday, April 28, 2017. If you would like to see the proposed Glendale departmental budget please use this link: Budget Ap 24 2017 POWERPOINT .

Generally this year’s departmental budgets are very clean. By that I mean that whatever budget increases were proposed could be justified. The biggest drivers of this year’s departmental budgets can be attributed to several factors: across the board employees received a 2.5% increase in pay and in almost every budget fire & liability insurance costs were up. For the first time some departments received a new line item for technology charges and those who were already charged for technology saw increases in this charge…in some instances… doubled.

Keep in mind no department’s budget ever starts at zero. Presently the city does not use zero-based budgeting. I have introduced it as a Council Item of Special Interest. Last year’s budget number for each department is the starting point upon which each department’s budget is based and each department’s budget is increased, decreased or remains static beyond last year’s number.

Over the past two fiscal years the departments council reviewed on Monday have seen increases in FY 2016-17 and FY 2017-18 totaling:

  • City Attorney                              14.96%
  • Police Services                            12.47%
  • Development Services                 23.90%
  • City Auditor                                13.86%
  • City Court                                  20.09%
  • Fire Department                           6.61%
  • Human Resources/Risk Mgmt      10.72%
  • Community Services                   -1.89%

The only department in this review to see a modest decrease in its budget is Community Services with a 1.89% decrease. This department is almost completely dependent on grants, especially federal grants like the Community Development Block Grant (this funds many of the services and programs offered to the poor and economically disadvantaged). So as these grants diminish slightly, so, too, does its budget.  This department has been advised by the federal Housing and Urban Development Authority (HUD) to prepare for as much as a 20% decrease in certain federal grants.

I have taken the liberty of noting some of the changes to various departmental budgets. In the City Attorney’s office there is the addition of an assistant city prosecutor. The addition of this full time employee (FTE) is to meet the increased demands of caseloads within the city’s court. The office has a line item of $200,000 for the use of outside attorneys (consultants). This amount increased from the $135,000 granted in last year’s budget.

In Police Services the newly appointed Police Chief Richard St. John is working aggressively to fill all authorized patrol positions. Currently there are only 8 unfilled authorized and funded patrol positions. That is the lowest number I have seen in years. Through attrition during each year the city loses about 20 officers. The focus for GPD this coming year will be on speeding enforcement. It is also the Chief’s goal to reduce beat sizes within the city as soon as practicable.

Development Services includes 3 departments – building safety, code compliance and planning. The number of FTEs in Code Compliance will increase by 2.5. Despite the implementation of new strategies in the use of employees’ time and effort within Code, it is still not performing as well as hoped. I think it is time for a city council workshop to do an in depth review of code. The fact that Saturdays are not covered optimally is a cause for concern as yard sales, as an example, can only be covered on weekends. I am concerned that with development picking up considerably within the city (there are more than 8 residential development projects in the pipeline at this time) and as the economy continues to improve, the planning department does not have enough manpower to perform in a timely and effective manner.

The City Auditor department, despite its increase in funding over the past two fiscal years, seems to be static in terms of productivity and the number of audits performed annually.

In the City Court its latest initiative, the Mental Health Court, has grown dramatically. Even though our City Court has met mandated Arizona Supreme Court times for closing cases, it is disappointing to see the resolution of traffic cases within 60 days drop from 93% to an 80% rate.

Fire Department Chief Terry Garrison reported on the success of the pilot project of employing Low Acuity (LA) vehicles and 2 man staffs to respond to ordinary, non critical emergency medical calls. This initiative is long overdue. Instead of sending big trucks (with the resultant O&M costs) Glendale is using

LA vehicles to answer non-critical medical calls freeing up fire resources and avoiding the tremendous costs associated with sending ladder trucks. They should be all over the city since 80% of the calls answered by the Fire Department are medical emergency calls…but they are not.

 These Low Acuity, two man units are not part of the Automatic Aid system for as it states in Section 9.1 of the Automatic Aid agreement, “System participants recognize the importance of service delivery and personnel safety issues. The minimum daily staffing level for engines and ladders shall be four members. Henceforth this will be referred to as full staffing.”

I would love to see the fire department develop 4 man, High Acuity vehicles to respond to critical, emergencies especially when one sees the statistics. In 2017, the fire department responded to 1,220 fire related calls – everything from a structure fire to a BBQ grill fire. During the same year it answered 29,900 advanced life support or basic life support medical calls.

Another alarming statistic is this. Under the Automatic Aid Agreement on 4,300 occasions another city’s fire department responded to an emergency call in Glendale. That’s great, isn’t it? You bet it is. The closest fire unit is responding and perhaps saving your life or the life of a loved one. But there is a flip side to that coin. Glendale responded to 6,600 emergency calls in other cities, like Phoenix or Peoria. These 6,600 calls were outside of Glendale. There is an imbalance that is costing you money. In essence, Glendale taxpayers subsidize emergency services for other cities. Of the 31,120 calls to which Glendale fire responded in 2017, 7% were outside of Glendale. I believe that firefighters must answer the call in or out of Glendale but I also believe that it is time that Glendale should be reimbursed for any calls above parity. Do you think Glendale should subsidize the 2,300 calls answered in Phoenix or Peoria?

Interim Director of Community Services, Elaine Adamczyk, was an impressive presenter of her department’s budget. As an Interim Director she had an amazing grasp of all facets of her department. This is a department that saw a 1.89% decrease over two years. That is understandable. This department is almost entirely composed of grant funds such as the federal Community Development Block Fund (CDBG). If grants dry up or diminish in size, this budget reflects those changes. Ms. Adamczyk advised city council that the federal Housing and Urban Development Department has advised all grantees that the amount of grant funds could be reduced by as much as 20%.

The last department of the day to present its budget was Human Resources & Risk Management. Its responsibilities are many and varied. Perhaps one of the most critical areas for the organization is its process for hiring new employees or filling vacant positions. Many believe the process takes far too long. If a department head has done a lot of preparation work it is possible to fill a vacancy or new hire within 60 days. Often it takes much longer than that. If a new employee or vacancy were to be filled in the private sector, it can often be accomplished within a matter of a few weeks because that position often has a direct effect on a company’s profitability or lack thereof.

On Friday’s, April 28, 2017, all day budget session, department budgets to be reviewed will be Public Facilities & Events, Economic Development, Public Affairs, Mayor& Council, Innovation & Technology, City Manager’s Office, City Clerk, Water Services and Public Works.

If you have Cox Cable, you can watch the session live on Channel 11 beginning at 9 AM. You can also watch it live online by going to www.glendaleaz.com then clicking on Channel 11 TV in the left column, then clicking again on Watch Channel 11 Live on the left column.

© Joyce Clark, 2017               

FAIR USE NOTICE

This site contains copyrighted material the use of which is in accordance with Title 17 U.S. C., Section 107. The ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Section 107 of the US Copyright Law and who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democratic, scientific and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such material. For more information go to http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use,’ you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Disclaimer: The comments in this blog are my personal opinion and may or may not reflect an adopted position of the city of Glendale and its city council.

Yucca district meeting went live. I have seen various online live videos on Facebook from time to time. A FB friend suggested that I use it to promo my district meeting last night, April 20, 2017. I decided why just use it for a promo? Why not try to bring the entire meeting online? It was our first try and sometimes the audio is not loud enough and we never thought to bring some kind of stand to place the IPad upon for steadiness. So there is some wobbling. And then I ran out of memory…I have no clue as to why. So we will work on those issues and when I have my next district meeting this Fall we will try it again. If you would like to take a look at my first try, here is the link: https://www.facebook.com/joyce.clark.338/videos/1469350713087843/ .

Coyotes bill seems DOA. The Arizona state legislature’s adjournment is fast approaching. The tentative date was scheduled for April 22nd. Arizona senate bill, SB 1149, is for all intents and purposes dead. It would have created a special taxing district to enable the Coyotes to build a new arena…anywhere but Glendale. Governor Ducey has already signaled that even if the legislation is rolled into another bill, he will not sign. His reason? He said he would not approve taxpayers supporting the cost of yet another arena in the state. It is my hope that with Anthony LeBlanc gone (he has not made any public statement for the Coyotes in over a month and there have been rumors circulating that another investor has joined the ownership group) cooler heads within the Coyotes’ ownership will prevail and there will be a reconsideration of negotiating a long-term lease with AEG, manger of the city-owned Gila River Arena.

Glendale’s bond rating increases. You might be wondering why city officials are giddy over bond rating increases delivered this week by Moody’s and recently by Standard & Poor. Why the big deal? When a city’s rating is poor, it costs the city more money to borrow because the interest rate is high. When a city’s bond rating goes up, it costs the city less to borrow money as the interest rate drops. With the upgrade in bond rating, the city will be able to refinance a majority of its outstanding debt at a lower interest rate, saving the city (you, the taxpayers) money. It also increases the city’s capacity to issue debt and makes it more likely that the city will be able to begin new Capital Improvement Projects. These projects can focus in on amenity projects, like parks and libraries, that benefit the quality of life of all of Glendale’s residents.

Volunteers appreciated. On Saturday, April 15, 2017 the city held a Volunteer Appreciation Luncheon at the Adult Center to recognize and thank the hundreds of volunteers giving thousands of hours throughout our city’s government. Mayor Weiers presented a proclamation of appreciation. Accepting on behalf of all volunteers was Bobbie Garland. I have known Bobbie for over 20 years. I have seen first- hand her willingness to give of her time. There could not have been a more fitting recipient selected. Kudos to Bobbie and all those who have followed in her foot steps.

A new name for AZSTA’s football stadium. It was announced this week that the University of Phoenix is terminating its naming rights for the stadium located in the Westgate area of Glendale. Frankly, I suspect that this action brings joy to every Glendale resident. Calling it the University of Phoenix Stadium was an anathema to many. It also created a great deal of confusion as to its location. Was it in Glendale or Phoenix? We are confident that AZSTA and the Cardinals will choose its new naming partner carefully and hopefully with no reference to Phoenix.

© Joyce Clark, 2017               

FAIR USE NOTICE

This site contains copyrighted material the use of which is in accordance with Title 17 U.S. C., Section 107. The ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Section 107 of the US Copyright Law and who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democratic, scientific and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such material. For more information go to http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use,’ you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

When my blog site was reconstituted after being down for two weeks four recent blogs disappeared. This is a reposting of one of the four “lost” blogs.

Disclaimer: The comments in this blog are my personal opinion and may or may not reflect an adopted position of the city of Glendale and its city council.

In my last blog I said that I would tackle General Obligation (G.O.) Bonds and Development Impact Fees (DIF). Both are complicated issues and I will do my best to explain their origin, purpose and use.

General Obligation (G.O.) Bonds. These and many other funding mechanisms cities use were created by and are still regulated by the state of Arizona.

The city uses G.O. bonds to fund many large scale capital projects, in other words, it is a major component of its Capital Improvement Plan. Every city must pay the principal and interest on these bonds through its secondary property tax.

However, the state constitution specifically limits the amount a city can borrow for G.O. bonds to 6% or 20% of a city’s total assessed valuation. In Glendale 6% bonds may be issued for economic development, cultural facilities, government facilities and libraries. However, the state constitution allows one exception, granting cities the ability to issue 20% bonds in these specific areas: flood control, open space/trails, public safety and streets/parking. Generally, these are extraordinarily big ticket items. Hence the exception.

Glendale’s total assessed valuation as of June 30, 2016 was $1,174,931,000. Multiply this figure by 6% and we have a figure of $70, 496,000. That $70 million figure is the total allowable capacity in Glendale for 6% debt.  In other words, if Glendale had the ability through the collection of secondary property tax to cover the principal and interest on just the category of 6% debt, it could do so. Now multiply $1,174,931,000 by 20% and we have a figure of $234,986,000 as the maximum allowable in the 20% bond debt category.

OK, we have a maximum 6% debt capacity of $70+ million and a maximum 20% debt capacity of $234+ million. Then why doesn’t the city just issue bonds in these amounts and be done with it?

Because there are two other factors that govern how much debt a city can take on. One is the city’s ability to repay annual debt. State statute mandates the city must pay the principal and interest on G.O. bonds from the secondary property tax it collects. It is prudent for a city to be conservative and try to figure out how much it can pay on debt not just in good economic times but when the economy takes a nose dive as it did for 5 years during the Great Recession.

The other factor is based upon you, the voter. Just because a city has debt capacity that doesn’t mean it can use it. Every city must go to the voters in a bond authorization election and ask for your permission to issue debt in each category for a capped amount of money. The most recent city-wide bond elections were held in 1981, 1987, 1999, and 2007. I won’t go through the whole list and how much bond authorization was approved in each category in each of the listed bond elections. In the last election in 2007 voters approved the issuance of bonds for flood control for a cap of $20 million+); Parks and recreation for a cap of $16 million +; Public safety for a cap of $102 million +; and Streets and Parking for a cap of $79 million+.

Both of these factors determine how much debt a city could take on in a given year. Even if you, the voter, have approved a maximum amount of debt in a certain category, such as flood control, the city must then look at how much debt it can comfortably afford to repay in good years and in bad years.

Another component of the CIP is Development Impact Fees (DIF). For many, many years Arizona lived by the imperative that “growth pays for growth.” It meant that developers had to pay X amount per house and it went into a city’s DIF. It allowed Glendale and every other Arizona city to use DIF to fund new parks, libraries, streets, police, fire, sanitation, water and sewer. It was a good funding mechanism for cities. As new residential subdivisions came on board cities would get DIF funds from the developer that was used, for example, to expand or build a new park. Need a new fire station because of several new subdivisions? DIF was used to offset the cost.

But the developers were not a happy lot.  For you see, DIF was added by them to the price of each new home. They complained that DIF was making their homes cost too much. They lobbied the state legislature and in 2011, SB 1525 was passed. Under this legislation some categories eligible for DIF were eliminated. Others were severely restricted and the formulas for the amount of DIF that could be collected were reduced to make them almost meaningless. This bill restricted every city’s ability to collect a reasonable DIF that followed the mandate of “growth paying for growth.” The state legislature at the behest of the development industry’s lobbyists literally passed on the cost of growth to the cities. And why would legislators do so? It’s understandable.  Many members of the development community contribute serious money to their campaigns.

 Suddenly cities found that in many cases, they simply did not have enough money to pay for infrastructure needed because of new growth in their communities.  If I were to make an educated guess I would estimate that Glendale has lost somewhere between $5 and $10 million dollars in DIF annually. Oh by the way, did developers drop the price of their new homes because DIF was suddenly reduced considerably by their buddies down at the state legislature? The answer is ‘no’… but their profit margins did increase.

© Joyce Clark, 2017          

FAIR USE NOTICE

This site contains copyrighted material the use of which is in accordance with Title 17 U.S. C., Section 107. The ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Section 107 of the US Copyright Law and who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democratic, scientific and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such material. For more information go to http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use,’ you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

When my blog site was reconstituted after being down for two weeks four recent blogs disappeared. This is a reposting of one of the four “lost” blogs.

Disclaimer: The comments in this blog are my personal opinion and may or may not reflect an adopted position of the city of Glendale and its city council.

On Tuesday, March 21, 2017 the city council had its first substantive discussion of the proposed Fiscal Year 2017-18 budget. It centered on its proposed Capital Improvement Program or CIP. What exactly is the CIP? Quite simply it allows the city to build things that include but are not limited to:

  • fire and police stations
  • libraries, court buildings and office buildings
  • parks, trails, open space, pools, recreation centers
  • water and wastewater treatments plants and their related infrastructure
  • roads, bridges, traffic control devices
  • landscape beautification projects
  • flood control projects
  • computer software and hardware systems other than personal computers and printers
  • major equipment purchases such as landfill compactors, street sweepers and sanitation trucks

There is specific council approved policy that dictates the determination of priorities within the CIP:  “City Council’s strategic goals and financial policies provide the broad parameters for development of the annual capital plan. For example, Council’s financial policies on Capital Asset and Debt Management state that the 10-year capital plan will address capital needs in the following order:

  • Improve existing assets
  • Replace existing assets
  • Construct new assets”

Additional considerations include but are not limited to the following:

  • “Does a project support the city’s goal of ensuring all geographic areas of the city have comparable quality in the types of service that are defined in the Public Facilities section of the General Plan?
  • Does the project prevent the deterioration of the city’s existing infrastructure
  • Does a project encourage and sustain quality economic development?” (From the city’s proposed Capital Improvement Plan budget, Fiscal Year 2017-18)

You get the idea. Things that are physical…things you can touch and see. I do have concerns with the last two items on the above listing of CIP examples – computer software and heavy equipment.

I went back through my stack of old budget books and the first time I could find the addition of computer software and hardware as part of any CIP was in my FY 2008-09 budget book…a mere 8 years ago.  Quite frankly, it was quietly added without any discussion at the time and I don’t remember me or any other councilmember back then questioning or even noticing its addition to the CIP. The same scenario occurred with the line item of major equipment purchases. It suddenly appeared in the CIP.

The city already has a Vehicle Replacement Fund (VRF) and a Technology Replacement Fund (TRF). This is where those two line items belong not in the CIP. If these funds need more money in them to cover these major expenses, then it’s time to allocate more revenue in each of these funds.

It causes me some concern because these big ticket items (major computer software and heavy equipment) could and often do compete for bond funding against the projects our citizens want and expect, such as libraries, recreation centers, adult centers, parks and pools. You know, the projects that maintain and upgrade our quality of life as residents of Glendale and make Glendale more attractive for economic development.

The total proposed funding for projects in the CIP for the upcoming fiscal year is $88,819,541. However, most of this money, $67,610,773 comes from Enterprise funding (water, sewer, sanitation and landfill) in addition to other, dedicated Transportation  funding, HURF (Highway User Revenue Funds) and a variety of grant funds.

The other monies to be used within the CIP are Bond Construction Funds made up of 6% or 20% General Obligation (GO) bonds ($14,994,708) and Dedicated Impact Fees (DIF) funds ($6,214,060).

I don’t want to get into the weeds on 6% or 20% GO bonds or DIF in this blog. My next one will explain those items in more detail. For now is the take-away that the proposed CIP totals $88 million plus.

© Joyce Clark, 2017                 

FAIR USE NOTICE

This site contains copyrighted material the use of which is in accordance with Title 17 U.S. C., Section 107. The ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Section 107 of the US Copyright Law and who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democratic, scientific and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such material. For more information go to http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use,’ you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Disclaimer: The comments in this blog are my personal opinion and may or may not reflect an adopted position of the city of Glendale and its city council.

On Tuesday, April 18, 2017 city council met in workshop session. There were 3 agenda items: information on the city’s purchase of a new city-wide software program; my Council Item of Special Interest requesting the formation of a temporary council subcommittee on business; and Councilmember Aldama’s  request to move forward with the creation of a citizen Diversity and Human Relations Commission.

PeopleSoft vs. Munis City-Wide Software Systems. City staff provided information on a proposed software system called Munis. Currently the city uses a software system called PeopleSoft for its Finance, Human Resources and Payroll functions. Staff represented that PeopleSoft is inefficient for their needs and estimated the number of hours currently used to support PeopleSoft as 19,562 and the estimated annual cost of that support is $703,475.

I do accept that the Finance functions under PeopleSoft are no longer sufficient to meet our needs but I have not been convinced that the city should abandon PeopleSoft’s functionality for its Human Resources/Payroll needs. 

In 2015 PeopleSoft’s HR and payroll modules were updated at a cost of $1.2 million. These software modules will receive PeopleSoft support until 2017. There does not appear to be any urgency to replace these modules after the city just spent $1.2 million to upgrade them. Yet the proposed city-wide software system contains the option to replace these modules.

A year later, in 2016, staff requested approval to hire a firm, Berry & Dunn, to search for, review and recommend a new city-wide software system. I don’t believe staff explained this request adequately to city council and that city council approved this request without realizing that they had taken the first step in a procurement process. The result is the current proposal to replace the entire city software system at a cost of $6 million over a two year period. Why replace the HR/Payroll modules when the city spent $1.2 million to upgrade them less than 2 years ago? Finance did make a strong case for the replacement of its PeopleSoft modules and I can support their request but I believe we can wait to replace the HR/Payroll modules at a later date.

The areas of my concern about which there were no satisfactory answers provided at the workshop are: 1. What are the cost savings and level of productivity to be gained by switching to this new system? and 2. What is the final, estimated cost of purchasing, supporting and implementing this new system? Staff indicated that answer would be available to council and the public on May 28th. By then the proposed budget is set and council moves into June having to approve the proposed budget. That is not satisfactory to me. It leaves no time to question or to adjust the proposed budget to reflect council’s final direction.

Temporary city council subcommittee on business. I introduced this item several months ago as a “Council Item of Special Interest.” It requests the creation of a temporary city council subcommittee comprised of city council members and representatives from Glendale’s business community. Its purpose is to make Glendale even more business friendly while enhancing Glendale’s reputation for supporting job attraction, creation and retention. This committee would review all of Glendale’s business-related codes, ordinances, regulations and policies for the purpose of removing out-dated, redundant, no longer relevant business imperatives. The committee’s conclusions and recommendations are advisory and would be presented to the full council for acceptance or rejection, in whole or part.

I am grateful to city council for offering their suggestions to make the concept even better and for their support in moving this initiative forward. I am excited that there will be an opportunity to take Glendale toward a 21st Century future by aligning its laws, regulations and policies to enhance our business community.

Diversity and Human Relations Commission. This item was originally initiated as a “Council Item of Special Interest” by former Councilmember Gary Sherwood. That’s how long this item has been floating around…at least 2 years. Sherwood was recalled and replaced by the current Councilmember Ray Malnar representing the Sahuaro district. Councilmember Aldama took up the issue after Sherwood left. Councilmember Malnar introduced an alternative Human Relations Commission proposal to Councilmember Aldama’s Diversity and Human Relations Commission. The proposals were virtually the same with the exception of Section 2-313 – Powers and duties (a).

Here is Councilmember Aldama’s version:

“The commission shall advise the mayor and council regarding issues, regulations or policies affecting diverse members of the Glendale community including, but not limited to, those related to race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, genetic characteristics, medical condition, familial or parental status, U.S. Military veteran status, mental development, behavior, illness, or disorder or disability, physical appearance, limitation or disability, education level, socio-economic condition or any other individual or distinct characteristic.”

Here is Councilmember Malnar’s version:

“The Glendale Human Relations Commission will act as an advisory body to the mayor and council by making recommendations on way to encourage mutual respect and understanding among all people, to discourage prejudice and discrimination, and to support cultural awareness and unity of the community in all its diverse forms. The commission may also make recommendations for special events.”

I preferred Councilmember Malnar’s version, as did Vice Mayor Hugh and Councilmember Tolmachoff. Consensus was given to move forward with the Malnar version to be agendized for a future city council voting meeting. My reason for support of the Malnar version is that the country’s current preoccupation with diversity has led to increased tensions and divisiveness among disparate communities. That is an atmosphere I prefer not to bring to Glendale. Rather Councilmember Malnar’s version emphasizes the very values we, as a nation, have seemed to have forgotten, that of mutual respect and understanding, the discouragement of prejudice and discrimination and support of unity within our community.

The next city council meeting will occur on Monday, April 24th at 9 AM. It will give the city council an opportunity to focus on individual department budgets and to pose questions about them. It will be followed by another budget workshop on Friday, April 28th and will be a continuation of departmental budget review by city council. You can watch these workshops online at the city website under the City’s Cable Channel 11 or if you are a Cox subscriber you can watch the workshops on TV Channel 11.

© Joyce Clark, 2017                 

FAIR USE NOTICE

This site contains copyrighted material the use of which is in accordance with Title 17 U.S. C., Section 107. The ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Section 107 of the US Copyright Law and who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democratic, scientific and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such material. For more information go to http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use,’ you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

When my blog site was reconstituted after being down for two weeks four recent blogs disappeared. This is a reposting of one of the four “lost” blogs.

Disclaimer: The comments in this blog are my personal opinion and may or may not reflect an adopted position of the city of Glendale and its city council.

For the next 6 weeks or so, the city council will be focused on Glendale’s budget. There will be a series of workshops devoted to it. The first one was held on March 7, 2017 and reviewed revenue projections, sources of the city’s revenues and the areas in which those revenues are spent. Keep in mind, per state law, Glendale and every other municipality must adopt a balanced annual budget. What does that mean?  That means the total of the city’s expenses must be shown to be covered by the revenues it receives.

There are 2 parts to the city’s budget: its General Fund budget and the Enterprise Funds’ budgets. The General Fund budget covers all expenses incurred by the city except for: Water, Sewer, Sanitation and Landfill. These 4 areas are called Enterprise Funds and they get their revenues from rate payers or users.

The pot of money for the General Fund has 2 components: all revenues and a fund balance (a rainy day fund). The money is paid out to 5 areas: expenditures, operating costs, the Capital Improvement Plan, our debt payments and a contingency fund. Except for debt payments which are a fixed cost, the other 4 areas compete against one another for the available money.

Where does the city get its money? From 5 sources:                                                                        

  • Sales tax                      44%                   
  • State shared revenue    26%                  
  • Other                           17%                  
  • Transfers In                  11%
  • Property Tax                   2%

There is one special note about the sales tax the city collects and that is, it no longer manages or collects it. A year or two ago, the state legislature, in its wisdom, mandated that it would collect every city’s sales tax and distribute those funds collected to each city. Now Glendale has to pay the state nearly half a million dollars to collect its sales tax…a new expense that Glendale never had before. To add insult to injury, this program rolled out completely in January of this year, 2017. To date, the state has only collected and dispersed approximately 66% of the money Glendale itself usually collected. I contend that in addition to our regular budget planning for next year, the city should be planning an alternate budget in case the worst happens and it does not receive all of the sales tax from the state to which it is entitled. 

There’s also another gimmick the state uses and that is with regard to state shared revenue. The largest component is state shared income tax. Every year we pay income tax to the state but cities do not get their share the following year. Instead the cities are paid two years later. That means the income tax you pay this year for 2016 won’t be seen by the cities until 2018. Think of the interest the state makes on millions and millions of dollars in income tax for that extra year until they disperse the money to the cities. 

There are no certain figures for expenses within the General Fund budget for this year as we are in the process of crafting this year’s budget. In last year’s Fiscal 2016-17 General Fund budget, here were the areas of expense:

  • Police department                   43%
  • Fire department                      22%
  • Other                                     16%
  • Non-departmental                     9%
  • Public Facilities, Rec & Events     6%
  • Public Works                             4%

Note that 65% of the city’s money goes to pay for Police and Fire. When you see the city’s total budget of approximately $500 million remember that only a portion of that is the General Fund Budget (should be an estimated $200 million).  The remainder (an estimated $300 million) is either Enterprise Funds or other special funds, such as the dedicated public safety sales tax or the transportation sales tax and as dedicated funds, cannot be used for any other purpose, such as the General Fund.

Out of a General Fund budget of approx. $200 million, 65% or approx. $130 million is for Public Safety (Police and Fire). That leaves about $70 million in the General Fund to pay for operating expenses (examples: all other employees’ salaries and benefits; our debt payments and our Capital Improvement Plan). Over half of the remaining $70 million (approx. $45 million a year) goes to pay the city’s debt service. That leaves us with an annual General Fund budget of $25 million a year.

As you can see, the city’s annual budget and the processes to create it are pretty complicated. It’s all in the numbers and a basic understanding of what numbers go where.

In Part 2 of Glendale’s budget 101 we will look at the proposed Capital Improvement Program or CIP. This is the budget portion that will be discussed by city council on Tuesday, March 21, 2017 at its 9 AM workshop. This will be televised live on Cox’s cable channel 11.

© Joyce Clark, 2017                 

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