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Budget expenditure limit, town emergency plan discussed at Council meeting


Tara Alatorre

CAVE CREEK – The Cave Creek Town Council held its regular meeting on April 4, and before things started heating up over the renewal of the town manager’s contract, the council approved some procedural items.

The Cave Creek Town Council held the first of two required public hearings regarding the proposal for the town to extend the state imposed “Home-Rule Alternative Expenditure Limitation Option,” which allows flexibility from the formula-based budget spending limit on Arizona towns.

The Home-Rule Alternative allows the town to have a budget expenditure limit with no ties to the state imposed limitations, and under state law, this alternative must be approved by voters every four years.  This item will be placed on the August 2016 ballot, and has been approved by Cave Creek voters since 1999.

“It is flexible, it is whatever the council imposes each year,” said Robert Weddigen, Cave Creek’s Finance Director at the meeting. “This assures there is consistency every year.”

The home-rule benefits allow the town to operate its budget with greater flexibility; in fact, 53 out of 79 Arizona town and cities currently use this alternative. For example, Cave Creek’s 2016 expenditure budget is $17,615,343, whereas the state imposed limit is around $11,200,000, which means the state imposed budget limitation is only 64 percent of what was the town actually needed in expenditures to operate the town, according to Weddigen.

“It doesn’t really fully capture the essence of the town in terms of revenues and expenditures that are necessary to run the town,” he said.

The second hearing will take place at the next town council meeting on April 18, and during that hearing the council will vote on whether to add the home-rule alternative to the ballot this August.

The town council agreed in a six to one vote, with Councilman Ernie Bunch voting no, to reconsider the March 21, 2016 action regarding the first reading of an ordinance that would change parcels from desert rural to a commercial buffer. The item was placed on the agenda by Councilwoman Susan Clancy, and the matter will be placed on the April 18, 2016, meeting agenda for discussion and possible action.

The town council also unanimously approved the official five-year-multi-hazard mitigation plan for Cave Creek, which includes risk assessments for multiple natural hazards, public outreach efforts, and a mitigation strategy that eliminates or reduces the effects of future disasters in the county.

The plan is updated every five years in cooperation with Maricopa County and it must be approved as a resolution by the town before it is sent to the Federal Emergency Management Agency in accordance to federal law.

Council members Susan Clancy and Ernie Bunch voiced concerns that a number of items in the plan had dates older than five years, implying that they had not been updated.

“The flood response plan has not been updated since 2008 based on what you have here,” Clancy said when addressing the Town Marshal who presented the plan. “There has been a lot of construction, a lot of changes, and a lot more homes….I am trying to understand why we don’t update fresh construction and its impact.”

The town marshal responded that her concerns were addressed in the flood mitigation portion of the plan, and conceded there might be one or two items that were not recently updated, but that most of the plan had been updated within the last two to five years.

Despite the town council having concerns over the age of the studies which the plan was relying on, the council unanimously agreed, that although the plan needed some updating, it was better than having no emergency plan.

“I am not sure how effective an overall plan is that relies on data, which is nearly over a decade old at this point, but that is really our fault for not updating our flood plans,” said Vice Mayor Steve LaMar. “I am not sure that is really a reason to vote no on this, because we need help from the federal government and that is the way we do that.”