For the first time in 12 years, the Willcox City Council has unanimously approved a city budget.

Mayor Mike Laws said he was “really proud of this council” for approving the $14 million budget for fiscal year 2019 at its July 5 meeting.

Laws praised Interim City Manager Crystal Hadfield, city staff and his fellow council members for completing this year’s budget process.

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“There were doubts about this budget two months ago — would we make it?” after former City Manager Ted Soltis was let go, he said.

Laws explained that the newly approved budget is frozen until new City Manager Caleb Blaschke begins on Monday, Aug. 6. Vice Mayor Terry Rowden clarified that the freeze applies only to capital expenditures, “so that the city can still pay its bills,” she said.

The council unanimously approved the tentative budget at its June 21 regular meeting. By Arizona law, once tentatively approved, the total budget amount cannot be increased.

In her budget message to the council, Hadfield said that, while the city continues to face financial challenges, “the budget is balanced, and significant positive progress has been made toward meeting not only present, but also future financial challenges, while also improving service delivery.”

One of Hadfield’s goals this year is to raise salaries by $1 per hour for full-time and by 50 cents per hour for part-time employees, she said. By eliminating costs and some positions by attrition, the city is able to raise salaries and “still maintain a balanced budget,” Hadfield said.

As to capital expenditures, two Police Department vehicles are once again budgeted for replacement. Other capital expenditures include computer systems upgrades, a new server, an analog recording system for communications, replacing Fire Department equipment and vehicles, a basketball pad for Huffman Park, as well as roof and six golf carts for the golf course.

The city is proposing an 8-percent wastewater fee increase (both fixed and variable) to accommodate the necessary additional funding, while property taxes will decrease as the secondary property tax will be paid off this year.

In FY 2019, total property tax revenues — commercial and residential — are budgeted at $78,139. City property tax on a home valued at $100,000 will be $42.28 per year, down $85.17 from last year.

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