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Paradise Valley Town Council dives into municipal financial prospectus

Photo of Town Hall where Paradise Valley Town Council regularly meets
A view of a retired monument sign alerting motorists they have entered the Town of Paradise Valley on display at the municipal complex at Town Hall. (Photo By Arianna Grainey/DigitalFreePress.com)
Paradise Valley Town Council begins detailed budget deliberations
By Terrance Thornton | Digital Free Press

The Town of Paradise Valley has money in the bank, but that’s not stopping elected leaders from understanding acutely the financial picture at Town Hall, 6401 E. Lincoln Drive.

Paradise Valley Town Council Thursday, March 23 hosted an hours-long conversation on the state of financial affairs, a rundown of parcels of land owned and proposed changes to fees administered by the municipality.

Ms. Duncan pointed out through both Town Council decisions and federal government grant dollars the Town of Paradise Valley — a recipient of $6 million in COVID-19 relief funds — only saw a dip in revenue totaling 1% from fiscal year 2019-20 to fiscal year 2020-21 helping the municipality to plan better for when unforeseen circumstances emerge.

Lindsey Duncan, Paradise Valley CFO, walked the local governing board through a litany of local funding sources, the mechanisms that govern the flow of that revenue and Town Council policies meant to administer those dollars and cents.

“We consider strategies for mitigating risk through allocation of resources,” she said while discussing significant financial hemorrhages in recent memory, the Great Recession and COVID-19 global pandemic. “Do we need to put in place new policies? We wanted to take a look at the shocks to the system.”

Ms. Duncan pointed out through both Town Council policy and federal government grant dollars the Town of Paradise Valley — a recipient of $6 million in COVID-19 relief funds — only saw a dip in revenue totally 1% during the that fiscal year helping the municipality to plan better for when unforeseen circumstances emerge.

“That was a very different shock to the system than was seen during the great recession,” she said of how federal dollars staved reduction in services, or staff in particular the Paradise Valley Police Department. “This just really reinforces the idea of looking at financial strategies.”

The adopted 2022-23 fiscal year all-funds budget is available now at the Paradise Valley Digital Budget Book — a new addition to the town’s website where available for public review is budget documents back to 2008 and the municipal annual reports dating back to 2006 and summary financial reports for the last five years.

“This has given us the opportunity to put forward the 2023-24 proposed budget, which we are thrilled to introduce with new options,” she said of the digital budget book devised online by ClearGov. “Before it was just pages and pages of information and now you can click to a report or any item. You can still print the book if you want.”

The lion’s share of Paradise Valley financial policy

The revenue Paradise Valley Town Council is charged with looking after is largely derived from sales taxes — about 73% to be exact, Ms. Duncan explained of the large chunk of revenue that flows to town coffers.

Other sources include licenses and permits, fines and forfeitures, and intergovernmental funds i.e. urban revenue sharing or income tax, Ms. Duncan explained.

“We don’t tax services other than hospitality, we primarily tax commodities which has a shrinking tax base as we are growing more and more into a service-based economy,” she said. “When we forecast sales tax we do look at it by categories because some are impacted differently. I look to classify trends and isolate anomalies.”

For all intents and purposes, Ms. Duncan says, the Town of Paradise Valley is on excellent financial footing and through a simulated financial downturn identical to both the Great Recession and the most recent global pandemic, Ms. Duncan says town services could survive the initial shock to the system.

“We could weather a similar hemorrhage for a year without any impacts on municipal operations,” Ms. Duncan said. “We don’t want to perpetuate that again.”

Paradise Valley Mayor Jerry Bien-Willner says a strategic financial policy ought to be developed for legalese scenarios emerging out of the Arizona Legislature like how construction sales tax is assessed — or where it is assessed coined, ‘point of sale.’

“In addition to a downturn we could also have a look at how we have certain contracts or for something like bills emerging at the state,” he said. “Something like that would be more effective then just looking at economic downturns — to have a cushion when those kinds of events happen so we don’t have to make difficult decisions like what happened about 12 years ago. I think we have some vulnerability not only at our legislature but also variables within contracting.”

Paradise Valley parcels and upcoming budget deliberations

There are several pieces of land — rights of way and some with structures and some without — but one parcel that is found at the corner of Scottsdale and Doubletree roads has in recent memory been the chagrin of resident and elected leaders alike.

“This is what the Maricopa County Assessor’s Office report is owned by the town,” Town Manger Jill Keimach said of the public parcels owned by the municipality.

“The Town Council has considered in 2016, 2019 and now it is 2023, should we consider the sale of public parcels. If we do, when, which one and why?”

Mayor Bien-Willner offered the parcel at Scottsdale and Doubletree roads is the only parcel of considerable public value.

“We only have one saleable piece of property in my mind,” he said. “The properties to the south and west are undeveloped and to me that suggests it is not the most desirable lot in town.”

Mayor Bien-Willner says the parcel could be identified for a qualified use not in concert with the surround community.

“That could really change the neighborhood, I am not saying that it is a no-sale property ever,” he said. “I think there is a lot of work to be done there.”

A potential idea that has emerged — and supported by members of Town Council — was a police staging area, training facility or gun range for law enforcement tactical training.

Paradise Valley Town Council is expected to continue the budget discussion the first week of April as each department head will present their respective budgets.

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