In the Town of Patagonia, state revenues, which account for two-thirds of the current annual budget of $1.9 million, were down 46.5% in the quarter ending December 31, 2020. If those reductions were to continue over the last two quarters of the fiscal year, it could result in a devastating loss of over $500,000. Ron Robinson, Town Manager, is attempting to limit the losses by making some reductions now. The Library has laid off one full-time staff person and the Town Marshall has not refilled a vacant full-time deputy position.
Fortunately, a recent revenue update from the Arizona League of Cities and Towns projects that Patagonia will end this fiscal year (July 1, 2020-June 30 2021) with state revenues neutral as compared to the prior year budget. Robinson said “they are only projections and could change, but if they hold it will be very good news.”
Town Marshall Joe Patterson manages a small team: two full-time deputies and a part-time animal control officer. When asked what the deputy cut means, Patterson said, “The same workload is spread over fewer people and if overtime is cut that leaves me, as the only salaried employee, to pick up the slack.” Patterson also said that “some believe the Town Marshall should be bringing money to the town coffers by issuing a lot of speeding tickets,” but he sees it differently. “Law enforcement is not about revenue generation.”
Laura Wenzel, the Town Librarian, says she’s a little scared about the future of the library. “We are a public service that does not generate our own revenue. This past year has been crazy, as the Library has moved from full closure to curbside pick-up to access by appointment only and then back to curbside pick-up. The library had to lay off a full-time employee. He fortunately has found other work. We will feel his loss more acutely when the library reopens. I will be spending more of my time covering his job.”
Fortunately, the nonprofit Friends of the Library, remains a stable source of funding. Wenzel estimates the Friends have raised and contributed approximately 30% of the Library’s budget in past few years, covering all book purchases and some program costs.
On the plus side, the local portion of sales tax is up 16.6%, primarily because of the Fairfield Act, enacted in 2019, which requires a portion of sales tax on goods ordered online and delivered to a Patagonia address to be shared with the Town. Enterprise Funds, or fees received for Town delivered services, like water, sewer, garbage, are up 6.7%. Robinson projects that these increases could generate as much as an additional $50,000 annually if they continue at these levels.
Another potential piece of good news is the passing of the federal American Rescue Plan, with $350billion allocated for states, cities, towns and tribal governments that have had revenue losses due to COVID. The Arizona League of Cities and Towns projects that Patagonia could receive $208,000 from those funds, divided into two equal payments, one in FY22 and one in FY23. If the money does come, it will be in the second half of the Town’s 2021-2022 fiscal year.
Patagonia also has two grant funded initiatives that will continue in the 2021-22 fiscal year: completion of Doc Mock Park improvements and implementation of the sewage treatment plant upgrade.
Another positive, it is Patagonia’s turn to receive federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds. The Town receives a CDBG allocation once every three years. $437,557 is available this coming year in our region. Southeastern Arizona Government Organizations (SEAGO) who manages the Small Cities/Rural CDBG program for our region will take 12% for administration leaving $385,050 available to the Town. There has been one public hearing in Patagonia on CDBG uses. Suggestions from those at the hearing included increases in library salaries; funding for youth center; funding for the senior center; a new fire truck; a solar power plant to reduce costs for low-income families; recreation center for kids. Robinson said the Town is also considering using CDBG funds to replace the deteriorating road bed and surface on McKeown between 3rd and 4th Avenue. A second public hearing on CDBG funding priorities will be held on April 14, 2021 at 7p.m.
Robinson is busy working now on the 2021-2022 budget.
“I am not considering new taxes at this time,” he said. “I do not want to burden community members with more costs now.”
He also does not want to dip into the Town’ reserves which currently stand at $969,803. Building the budget with the lack of certainty on the revenue side is a tough job, but at least the uncertainty is trending better now than a month ago.
There will be opportunities for the public to comment on the proposed 2021-2022 budget later this spring including a council workshop and a public hearing.