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Sedona Council Urged to Balance City Budget

sedona jobs accounting tax dollar bill book calculatorSedona AZ (January 24, 2015)The following is a letter to the SedonaEye.com editor:

I was both amused and horrified to read the City Council’s wishlist. I was amused by the variety of unnecessary projects that would cause senseless discretionary spending. Some of my favorites were website enhancement, wireless master plan and broadband, a central meeting place and the ulitmate one – a new design and aesthetics for street signs, which has to be somebody’s pork request. Needless to say, I was horrified that there was no mention of balancing the budget without spending down the reserves. No hint at all of any fiscal responsibility to us taxpayers.

The City touted how more much input was received by residents through the Citizen Engagement Committee. I would love to learn the identity of those members, because most of the items on the wishlist appeared to be pork for vested interests, who benefit from the City’s largesse. For example the Chamber and its tourism affiliates probably had something to do with these wishes: short-term rental enforcement, crackdown on illegal conversion from single-family homes to multi-family units, and an accessory dwelling unit ordinance update. They were probably instrumental in making a low priority the wish for monitoring destination marketing and product development and funding. Mostly because we citizens would probably learn how ineffective and wasteful these efforts have been.

I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that the construction industry was behind these wishes: Land Development Code review and update, beautification of 89A, a central meeting place, housing in-lieu policy, a policy for spending affordable housing funds, and the uptown crosswalk and safety improvements. So much for citizen input.

sedona marathon 23Actually all of us residents would like to see a reduction in traffic, but there are no logistical solutions. So a councilperson’s proposal for yet another traffic study that would cost $250,000 (more pork for somebody) would be a total waste of money. The only way to reduce traffic is to reduce tourists, which would mean that the City would stop funding the Chamber to bring more of them here and stop granting permits to build more hotels. Unfortunately that probably won’t happen.

Thus this City Council is shaping up to be no different than the previous ones in terms of fiscal responsibility. Their number one priority (my number one wish) should be to actually balance the budget wherein expenses and revenues are the same number and cancel out each other. But instead they will probably spend down the City’s reserves until they will have to tax us more through GO bonds, Special District taxes and possibly a property tax.

So please help me stop this madness and lobby City Hall with phone calls and emails, encouraging the Council to truly balance the budget without smoke-and-mirrors accounting.

Henry Twombly
Sedona, AZ

For the best Arizona news and views, read www.SedonaEye.com daily!

For the best Arizona news and views, read www.SedonaEye.com daily!


  1. david says:

    There are so many street signs in Sedona, if you laid them down one after another you could walk across West Sedona without touching the pavement.

  2. Gail, Sedona says:

    About time somebody said something about those idiots signs all over the place! Going in a round about how many idiot signs are needed? You’ve got signs in the medians, mile markers in FRONT OF SHOPS like Tequa between two round abouts obscuring Tequa signage. Nobody needs to know mile marker whatever in the town limits! Backs of signs should be used rather than a brand new sign installed. Idiots. Disgusting.UGLY!

  3. JeanJ says:

    A look at the City’s State Schedule A, “Summary Schedule of Estimated Revenues and Expenditures/Expenses,” for the last four years reveals a very troubling pattern. Budgeted Expenditures exceed Estimated Revenues/Collections very significantly. To be exact:

    ($12,391,621 in FY 2015-16
    ($10,594,874) in FY 2014-15
    ($8,878,060) in FY 2013-14
    ($11,273,855) in FY 2012-13

    During recent Home Rule Elections the City’s “Publicity Pamphlet” has stated the budgets in any given year depend upon available revenues. Expenditure and Revenue estimates are always equal. Not anywhere does the City disclose to the electorate its awful plan to spend down reserves/savings.

    That there’s been no maintenance of strong reserves to ensure long-term financial stability or cure the City’s underinvestment in roads and drainage infrastructure is a a very serious matter. According to former Councilmember Mike Ward in the SEDONA TIMES (January 22, 2013), “The current projected total cost of the 2005 City Storm Water Master Plan has risen from $15 million to more than $30 million, a massive project even by Phoenix standards.”

    By the way, the “‘Things to Know’ about the City of Sedona’s Proposed FY 2011/12 Budget” document states the City’s wastewater plan “….will increase user fees for wastewater….and allow more money to be put toward streets & other capital improvements that benefit the entire community.” Thus, the reduction in the General Fund WW sales tax allocations from 46% to 30% frees up multi-millions over and above 2009 collections for this fiscal year and for those to come. In addition, the City’s revenues are up by $1,745,132 from July through April of this fiscal year as compared to the same period last fiscal year when they were up by $2,017,861.

    The Mayor states the City is “looking for funding sources for our Capital Improvement Program.” Go figure!

    P.S. The total budget for community groups, including the Chamber of Commerce, is $2.18 million for FY 2015-16.

  4. steve segner says:

    JeanJ says:
    The Mayor states the City is “looking for funding sources for our Capital Improvement Program.” Go figure!
    Go borrow… Not a bad word, you borrow to fund capitol projects…. a tax on property would also work,

  5. JeanJ says:

    More bond debt means higher taxes and fees. Instead of borrowing, it’s time City Hall ended its pursuit of pet projects–likewise $$$$ giveaways to regional vested interests who are worsening Sedona’s livability and diminishing the quality of life for tourists.

    By the way, Sedona’s per capita bond debt of $4,649.62 is already the 7th highest of AZ’s 91 cities. The average per capita debt for cities and towns with outstanding bond debt is $1,765.98. Source: AZ Dept of Revenue “FY 2013/14 Report of Bonded Indebtedness.”

    Unsettling that Sperling’s BEST PLACES (to live) states “Compared to the rest of the country, Sedona (zip 86336)’s Cost of Living is 29.20% Higher than the U.S. average.” Competitiveness is not up to snuff in Sedona due mainly to over taxation. More bond debt or a city property tax would be reductive.

  6. Let me put it succinctly Steve, you get a tax on my property, I’m selling it and moving two businesses and several income producing tax bases for the city OUT. If any person at the chamber starts talking about it I’m going to personally see to it that my friends and I pull memberships. You should listen 5 at chamber & 7 at city. End quote Steve. The county takes a mere fraction of tax that this damn city wants. Kept quiet all this time but the buck is going to stop on city council desks now. I’m sick of it. I don’t care if the chamber manages to get funding from the city, it’s the city’s job to manage its own business & if you give the chamber it & salaries get paid from it then it’s benefiting the city with employed people. Getting like Alice in Wonderland around here.

  7. Steve segner says:

    Jean per capita does not work, we have no head tax, just sales tax , income to sedona comes from visitors, we keep going over this.
    Please how are we over taxed? You say we are , we have a sales tax. ?
    Jean, you just do not like a city that supplies services to residents under 60

  8. Rockin Roger says:


    More bond debt you say???? Are you speaking about the city refinancing the bond debt?? You have been beating the same horse for so long I;m a bit confused.

  9. Steve segner says:

    Jean, perhaps this will make you feel better,add 3000 to your per capita number.
    sedona has 2000 to 4000 visitors staying and paying each night, that should move Sedona way way down your made up per capita list, but even better the visitors pay sales and bed tax.
    Hope that helps we now have lots ove bonding income.

  10. JeanJ says:

    In addition to the refi’s of the City’s Series 2005 and Series 2007 Bonds, approximately $10 MILLION in more bond debt was given the green light by the Mayor and Council during their 4/30//2015 Special Meeting (Agenda Item 3.b.) after a presentation by Mark Reader and Erika Miller of Stifel, Nicolaus and Company.

    The specific plan for obtaining the New Bond Issuance is a work in progress. Working out the details could take a spell. Will the new bonds be replete with interest only annual payments and a 2031 expiration date? Under our last Mayor the City’s Bond Rating was downgraded from AAA to A.

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