It’s that time each year that our City is preparing for the new budget (fiscal) year which begins July 1. Stories have been written about our financial woes at the end of 2018, but thanks to the staff who looked within already bare-bones budgets to delay some spending, we will erase the red and reach June 30 in the black. I applaud city staff for their responsible efforts to erase the red and not dip into the City’s “savings account” which all of us who have to manage our household budgets know are for true emergencies, not to live on.
As all cities, we set our budget based on the revenues we expect to receive from the sources where our funding comes from. We look at state and regional economic trends, forecasts and our history. Our revenues come from the federal government; gasoline taxes and state shared revenues where the state collects taxes on behalf of cities and then passes back our portion based on our population; property taxes for those who own a home or business; local sales tax, our largest source which two-thirds comes from visitors and others passing through who do not live here; grants and funding of other one-time revenues. While Arizona overall has seen healthy revenues, Douglas has not had the growth that brings a steady increase. We have lost much economy over the decades and have hit the bottom where we now need an infusion of much-needed money just to run our City at a basic level.
So, what does this mean? Historically we have not developed a collective vision of how to transform the robust revenue days when Phelps Dodge ran the smelter here into a new industry base to support our homeowners, young families, professionals and retirees who love it here. That has changed with 2019. Your city council has developed a strategic plan to promote Douglas, work on trade and commerce and infrastructure development, communicate more with the community and grow our collaborations. This budget will allow us to move towards this vision and improve our economy.
To fund the plan to get us back on steady footing, I have recommended the sales tax increase of one cent, which will be funded nearly 70 percent by those living elsewhere. Others will help pay for that community center we are working on in partnership armory staff, additional and improved spaces of athletic courts and field lighting, ramadas, and recreation programming with the employees to be able to manage those and other needs like promoting Douglas, a downtown plan and attracting business. We have implemented a capital improvement program to put money towards the big ticket items. Additionally, I am recommending we ask our voters for authority to issue bonds. One project would take care of the city streets in a manner that they won’t deteriorate after repairs in a year. Voters will know the cost and what you get with your approval.
Unless we bring in new revenues, we will have no choice but to close services and lay off employees. That isn’t the future of Douglas we want but we have choices for a bright path forward.
Please join us June 12 for the public hearing on our budget at City Hall.