The Mesa City Council finally adopted its $973.3 million budget Monday — the same day it got some news that could have changed its financial forecast if it had come sooner.
The U.S. Census agreed to revise its earlier population estimate for Mesa from 417,387 to 448,096, according to City Manager Christopher Brady.
This could translate into more state-shared revenue for the cash-strapped city, although a final decision on funding hasn’t been made.
The extra 30,000 people could mean more bucks for Mesa. Population numbers are used to determine how much money communities receive in state income and sales tax revenue. Mesa doesn’t have a primary property tax, so that state-shared revenue is all the more important.
But the timing of the announcement couldn’t have been worse. Under state law, once a budget is passed, the amount cannot be increased. So any new money that may come as a result of the bureau’s new figures would have to go into reserves, assistant budget director Chuck Odom said.
The announcement, while welcomed, came too late to save programs facing cuts and people facing layoffs.
With little fanfare, the council adopted a budget that has stirred up so much emotion over the last few months, as well as a five-year capital improvement plan and utility rate increases.
Also, the City Council voted to raise water rates by 6.6 percent and increase wastewater, natural gas and solid waste rates by 5 percent.
The $973.3 million budget is roughly $100 million higher than the current fiscal year.
Some of the budget increases are because of pay raises for police officers and state-mandated pension increases. Sales tax revenue is expected to go up this next fiscal year, thanks in part to voters, and this will pave the way for roughly $25 million in road improvements. The increases also are because of new financial reporting requirements, which force the city to “double-count” about $43 million in budget items.
Meanwhile, other departments will see some deep cuts. A total of 145 positions are being eliminated. There will be no holiday lighting in 2006. The park ranger program will be drastically reduced, and two museums will be forced to cut back hours. The new budget will go into effect on July 1.