In October, Chandler’s taxpayers paid $32,350 for a new car for the mayor just as the city’s accountants were beginning to warn of financial hardship.
Mayor Boyd Dunn’s 2009 Toyota Camry Hybrid came with almost $5,000 in options that include a moon roof, rear spoiler, XM Radio, leather-trimmed seats and navigation system.
City policy allows for the mayor to be furnished a car and Dunn had been driving a 2004 Chevrolet Malibu with 69,000 miles on it for the last four years.
That car had been having maintenance problems and he agreed with city mechanics that it was time for a new car.
Dunn said the city manager suggested he get a hybrid. And he said he also followed the recommendation of city staff that he get that particular Camry with all of the upgrades.
“I will admit the amenities on the Camry were different,” Dunn said. He added, “I certainly made the final decision.”
The City Council approved a $1.9 million budget for new cars this year on Sept. 25.
According to city records, the city purchased the Camry Oct. 20.
Jane Poston, a spokeswoman for Chandler, said the dealer, Larry Miller Toyota, provided the Camry and a Toyota Prius hybrid to test drive.
The mayor chose the Camry, which came with the upgrades.
“That was what the dealer had in inventory,” Poston said. “Otherwise it would have been a special purchase.”
She said no other car in the Chandler fleet has such upgrades except for cars police seize and put into service.
Dunn said he probably could have asked city staff to hold out for a bare bones Camry at the dealership.
On Oct. 27, Dennis Strachota, who is in charge of the city’s finances, warned at a City Council meeting that Chandler was in for a projected $8 million revenue shortfall this fiscal year.
Since then, city manager Mark Pentz announced an estimated $19 million deficit next fiscal year, implemented a hiring freeze, suspended certain benefits and suspended raises for temporary employees to address a growing deficit.
The city manager is also considering such cost-saving measures as eliminating pay raises, non-emergency overtime, programs and services, increasing user fees and charges and offering voluntary separations.
Dunn said the timing of the purchase was simply a matter of the normal sequence of replacing a high-mileage car.
Records show the Malibu required $1,569.51 in parts and labor in 2008, the largest bill of $410.30 coming in August when it ran rough.
The rest of the 2008 maintenance included $409.01 for tires and wheels, $69.90 for a wash, $164.40 for a window, $120.28 for work on miscellaneous gauges, $37.43 for a body part and $358.11 for preventive maintenance inspections.
Repairs have run $5,769 for parts and labor over the life of the car, almost 25 percent of it coming in preventive maintenance inspections and another 16 percent for tires.
The largest single repair expense was $654 to fix a problem with the seats in November 2007.
The car has been placed into the city’s motor pool, Poston said.
Dunn is the only mayor of the most populous East Valley cities whose car is provided.
Mayors in Tempe, Mesa, Gilbert and Scottsdale get monthly car allowances ranging from $150 in Mesa to $600 in Scottsdale.