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Fri, Sept. 18

Tusayan adopts $25 mil budget for FY 2021
Essential services, ongoing projects evaluated as revenues drop 69 percent

TUSAYAN, Ariz. —The Town of Tusayan has officially adopted a $24 million budget for fiscal year 2021.

The new fiscal year began in June, however, town revenues are down by 69 percent due to the coronavirus pandemic. The town council held extra work sessions to reevaluate priorities before officially finalizing the budget. Several projects in the works had to be scaled down to keep pace with lower revenues.

At the July 22 meeting, Town Manager Charlie Hendrix reported the tourist economy is not likely to recover until the fall/ winter of 2022. With this information in mind, the council discussed taking conservative yet effective measures to maintain vital public safety services to the town, such as renewing its contract with the Coconino County Sheriff's Department for law enforcement services, as well as completing projects relating to flood safety. The council also plans to continue with various aspects of public works projects that are already underway, such as continuing to assess the Sports Complex for developments

Budget overview

The adopted budget is significantly larger than the previous fiscal year because voters approved the one-time, one-year override in May, which allowed the town to set its own budget for the year versus being under the state-imposed limit of $1.4 million.

Tusayan operated under the $1.4 million limit for the fiscal year of 2020, after losing its Home Rule option. When towns in Arizona are under Home Rule, they may set their own budget. The Home Rule option will be up for vote again in the November 2020 election, and, if passed, would apply to fiscal year 2022.

Despite COVID-19 concerns, Tusayan still has an estimated $9 million in savings and additional income from a variety of special revenue funds and grants that give the council the ability to adequately fund projects and services to the town.

The town plans to contribute comparable sums to previous years to the Chamber of Commerce and the Kaibab Learning Center as well as Grand Canyon School now that funds are available once again. The town is also using available funds to pay for wifi access for the entire town.

The current budget of $24 million does not mean the town will necessarily spend that amount in particular, but rather it is the spending authority granted to the council to cover a variety of costs.

Costs are broken down into categories, and are listed on the budget as funds within departments.

For example, there is the Capital Funds Department, in which funds are earmarked for specific capital projects. The total amount for capital projects for the current year is $15 million. At the moment, there are several capital projects that are planned for the year, and each has an estimated cost.

One example is the water engineering analysis. The purpose of the analysis is for the council to receive data related to the town-contracted water company, Hydro Resources. The town currently has a plan to purchase Hydro Resources in order to create a water municipality, which would allow the town to regulate its own water resources instead of relying on contracting services. The estimated cost of the analysis is $100,000.

Currently, there is a basic overview of the budget available on Tusayan's website, However, individual costs of proposed projects are not currently included. Projects that have already been approved are available for viewing under the town website's Agendas & Minutes section.

Projects underway

Before COVID-19 concerns caused revenue to decline, Tusayan had a variety of projects slated for the current fiscal year, some of which had already begun before the year officially started. The town secured a $2 million loan in early 2020 for capital projects despite the loss of Home Rule. The council was determined to begin the projects in an effort to enhance Tusayan's appeal to visitors to the area and residents alike.

One of those projects was the Community Trails plan, which would enhance and expand 13 miles of trails around town. Since last year, the plan had gained momentum after the loan enabled the council to proceed with phase two of the plan, which covered aspects of the formation of trails relating to land easements and development surveys.

Now, because of the pandemic's effects on revenue, the project's original planned funding for the year went from $100,000 to $25,000 to continue with the surveys, but any actual development will not likely take place this year unless revenues improve. If that were the case, monies that are part of the contingency budget could potentially be reallocated to the capital funds budget to cover any additional costs. Such a maneuver would require a motion being passed by the council to proceed.

Other projects underway include potential additions to the Sports Complex. Recently, Mayor Craig Sanderson presented concept plans for an outdoor classroom, otherwise referred to as a ramada, to the Grand Canyon Unified School District (GCUSD), of whom the Tusayan council co-manages the Sports Complex via an Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA).

The council passed a motion that would let Councilman Robb Baldosky work with the town's architect, Michael Taylor, to revisit the site, and come up with new concept drawings to present to the IGA workgroup once more for consideration before proceeding with any further action to build on the school-owned land.

"We do not have answers today" said Sanderson, speaking of the current status of the ramada.

Marketing tourism in uncertain times

Despite the pandemic, the council believes it is important to stay focused on marketing Tusayan in order to promote tourism and keep the economy going.

One of the items that remained unchanged in the budget was the marketing campaign. At the July 22 meeting, Vice Mayor Brady Harris stated the importance of the campaign. "There is no doubt that marketing is key here. We need to keep that in focus.”

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