TUSAYAN, Ariz. — Tusayan could be looking at steep cuts to its annual budget next year after the Auditor General’s office found the town did not comply with state statutes prior to the Nov. 6, 2018 election.
In a letter mailed to the town earlier this year, the Auditor General informed the town that it’s alternative expenditure limitation, or Home Rule, has been declared invalid because the town did not submit detailed and summary analyses for review at least 60 days prior to the election last year.
The letter said the Auditor General informed the town March 9, 2018 about the statutory requirements for placing Home Rule on the ballot and how to prepare the necessary documents. The letter said the Auditor General’s office was not made aware of Tusayan’s intention to put the matter to a vote and was only notified seven months later when an office staffer read it in the town’s newsletter, the Tusayan Town News.
“There is certain information required by statute when a city or town decides to go for Home Rule,” said Megan Smith, account services manager for the Arizona Auditor General’s office.
The required information must include calculations about money the town plans to spend and the revenue it receives. Smith said if the office doesn’t receive the information prior to the election, an opinion from the Arizona Attorney General’s office said the election result in favor of Home Rule would be nullified.
Smith said the office received a draft pamphlet on Oct. 11, but that it did not include the required summary analysis and that several attempts to obtain the information went unmet. The Auditor General did receive the required completed worksheets Nov. 15, nine days after the election.
An invalidation of the town’s Home Rule provision means that Tusayan’s budget will be dictated by the state for at least two years. Instead of being able to spend up to $21 million in banked revenue, the town is now limited to just over $1.4 million. In a previous public hearing held in July 2018, council member Al Montoya said the town would continue critical services such as the sanitary district and public safety, but that assistance provided by the town to other organizations would cease.
Some of those programs and organizations could include the Grand Canyon Chamber of Commerce, Grand Canyon School, Kaibab Learning Center, the Summer Café youth lunch program and the Tusayan Fire Department, among others.
One of the few options available to the town to ease a budget shortfall is a one-time budget override that would need voters’ approval. The town held a series of public hearings in February on the matter to inform the public of what the override means — it would allow the town to spend a predetermined amount of money in excess of the state-approved $1.4 million and would affect the budget going forward from July 1. The town would need to pass two such overrides to continue choosing its own spending limits.
In the November 2020 election, the town has the option to place Home Rule back on the ballot, although Town Clerk Bruce Northern said it would not be a renewal of the existing provision but a new measure, meaning it would need to be initiated by citizen petition.
Although the town normally contracts with Coconino County to handle all its elections, the town missed a critical deadline last month to place the measure on the ballot. Coconino County Recorder Patty Hansen said the town had to vote to call for an election by Jan. 22 in order to have the measure placed on the county’s May 21 ballot — state law requires towns and cities to notify the Recorder’s Office of a call to election at least 120 days prior.
“State law requires them (the town) to call if on one of the four consolidated election dates,” Hansen said. “The next consolidated election is Aug. 27.”
Because a decision wasn’t made until after that date, Northern said the town would be holding its own precinct election May 21 and has already contracted with a vendor to conduct the election.
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