Tusayan Town Council settles on 2017 budget: Ten X housing top priority

Sports complex won't be funded entirely this year

The National Park Service said visitors to parks in Arizona last year spent $995 million at nearby businesses, like those in the town of Tusayan, the gateway to the Grand Canyon.

Sophie Kunthara/Cronkite News

The National Park Service said visitors to parks in Arizona last year spent $995 million at nearby businesses, like those in the town of Tusayan, the gateway to the Grand Canyon.

TUSAYAN, Ariz. — The Tusayan Town Council passed its preliminary town budget July 12 at its regular monthly meeting. The budget will be available for public review prior to finalization at the August meeting.

The budget, which totals $14,981,692, includes money for the town’s annual costs — utilities, maintenance and operations – as well as capital projects. Two large capital projects, the housing development at Ten X Ranch and a sports park to be built on Long Jim Loop Road, were central expenditures in the budget, totaling just over $11 million between them.

Housing, however, took center stage in the budget discussion.

Citing a lack of movement from the Grand Canyon School District on an intergovernmental agreement and a desperate need for work to begin as soon as possible at Ten X, Councilmember Al Montoya favored moving money allocated for the sports complex — 5.3 million — into the fund for the Ten X development, which was due to receive $6 million this fiscal year.

“I’m reluctant to spend that amount of money for minimal returns,” Montoya said. “Park development may provide some benefits, but housing has more value in my opinion.”

Councilmember David Chavez agreed, saying in his discussions with constituents that building the sports complex is not at the top of the priority list, if it comes up at all.

“In my daily conversations with community members, it just doesn’t come up,” he said.

Town Manager Eric Duthie stressed that the budget was only for one fiscal year, along with park development, meaning that monies allocated to the park would be for one year only, as the project would be completed.

“Funds for housing development will continue into next fiscal year and beyond,” he said. “The park is a one-time expenditure.”

Mayor Craig Sanderson agreed that housing development was a top priority, but wanted to make the park a priority as well, referring to an earlier survey in which town residents listed a running track as one of the things they wanted to see in town.

“The park has a benefit to every resident of the community, whereas the housing development can only provide benefits to a limited number of people,” he said. “That’s the reality.”

Sanderson said budgeting the $5.3 million doesn’t mean that amount has to be spent — the town can request engineers to come back with a lower estimate or eliminate some amenities. Budgeting less, however, means that the town can only spend up to that amount in the current fiscal year. If the cost ends up being higher, the park won’t be finished until the next year.

The council agreed to make housing the larger priority in this year’s budget, leaving $1 million in funding for the park — enough to get started, Sanderson said — and moving the remaining $4.3 million into the housing development line item.

The motion passed unanimously, 5-0.

Other allocations in the budget discussed by the council included $325,000 in subsidies for the Tusayan Fire Department and monies for the acquisition of a 4x4 vehicle allowing town personnel to travel during snowy or muddy weather.

The council also approved funding for an emergency services study to assess the need for a dedicated police department. The town currently contracts with the Coconino County Sheriff’s Department to provide law enforcement services, but there is no deputy located in the town itself.

An emergency service study would assess the viability and cost-effectiveness of having a town police department, versus the roughly $517,000 per year that the town is paying the Coconino County Sheriff’s Department to provide services.

“People are saying ‘Why isn’t the sheriff here when we need him,’” Montoya said. “Eventually we’re going to need our own police department. How long do we want to wait?”

The council also approved addition of a second person to Plaza Bonita’s liquor license and introduced Susan Kerley as the interim town clerk, replacing Melissa Drake.

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