Lake Havasu City officials say passage of Proposition 409 would not result in a new pot of money for the city but rather would allow the city to use the revenues it already brings in.
But City Council and Mayoral candidates aren’t necessarily in agreement about how the city would proceed assuming the measure passes on Aug. 28.
Some candidates, such as incumbent Councilwoman Michele Lin, would like to see the city address salary compression for firefighters and other city employees. The issue has become a hot-button topic following the council’s decision in May to not allocate funding in the 2018-19 fiscal year budget to address fire department wages. Compression, also referred to as compaction, occurs when long-time employees make similar wages to those hired at a later date.
“The first thing I would like to see addressed is compaction issues citywide,” she told the News-Herald in an email. “I think that our current ‘step’ (compensation plan) approach is no longer suitable for many of our departments. We should look more into the longevity of city employees when making salary increases.”
Candidate Rich Crayne, along with mayoral candidates Cal Sheehy and Nicole Norona, also said the matter is an item they would like to see addressed if the ballot initiative passes.
Councilman David Lane, who is not facing an election this year, agreed that the ballot measure would make it easier for the city to address salary issues and he defended his earlier vote not to take on salaries in this year’s budget: “I didn’t want to address the compression issues at that time because if Prop. 409 doesn’t pass there’s a really good possibility we’re going to be having to lay people off so it doesn’t make sense to take and put money into this issue…because the fact is if Prop. 409 doesn’t pass we have to make cuts somewhere, we may have to lay people off, we may not have to, we don’t know where those cuts are going to come from.”
Prop. 409 would also allow city officials to move forward with certain budget priorities for the 2019-2020 fiscal year without the worry of potential budget cuts and going over its annual expenditure limitation, which could result in the loss of state-shared revenues.
Norona would also like to look into previously cut city positions, services and programs to determine if any could be reinstated. She used Teen Break as an example – a spring break program for Havasu teenagers that closed in January due to a decline in participation.
“Ultimately it is up to the great people of Lake Havasu City how they want their tax dollars spent. And it is our job as elected officials to ensure we present the general public with the issue at hand and all reasonable solutions in order to allow the voice of the community to be heard,” she wrote in an email.
Sheehy stated that his goal would be to meet the needs of the citizens, adding that most of it had already been identified in the city’s community investment program and Vision 20/20 Implementation Plan.
“What I’m hearing from the community through the conversations that we’ve had through the election cycle and through the conversations we’ve had with Prop. 409 is they like the direction we’re going and so I don’t propose anything new,” said Sheehy. “I propose that we continue the forward movement that addresses the issues that are important to our citizens.”
Ultimately, he added, those budget discussions and decisions would occur during the city’s “normal and open” budget process next year. Lane stated in an email that the budget process is conducted by the City Manager Jess Knudson and city staff with input from the community and the City Council.
Both Lane and Mayor Nexsen, whose term expires this year and is not seeking reelection, shared similar views as Sheehy in that the city should focus on its approved capital improvement projects and Vision 20/20 plans – some of which are included in the CIP – if Prop. 409 passes.
“I have no pet projects…each year we shall see what revenues we have and move forward from there,” wrote Lane in an email. “Listening to the other council members, they feel as I do: no raise in taxes, live within our means and complete projects based on what the people want and what the revenues will allow.”
Councilmembers Gordon Groat and Donna McCoy, along with candidates Jeni Coke, Jim Dolan and Alex McClane, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.