City council approves budget

Peoria recently approved its final budget for the 2023-24 fiscal year with a total bankroll of $950 million. (File Photo)

Peoria City Council recently approved the final budget for the fiscal year 2023-24.

In a unanimous decision, the new budget will total $950 million and will include the city’s capital improvement program. It will take effect on Saturday, July 1, and run through June 30, 2024.

“The proposed FY 2024 budget is a structurally balanced spending plan that will preserve our strong financial foundation and provide the resources needed to deliver the high-quality public services our community expects,” Peoria City Manager Henry Darwin said.

The new budget will look to provide a solid foundation for the city to build on. The $950 million is a 21.3% increase from the prior year’s $783 million that was made available due to the steady growth in the city’s revenue in the past years.

Of the $950 million, the budget breaks down into $416.4 million for the city’s operating budget — an increase of $44.6 million from the last year. The remaining $410.6 million is allocated to the city’s capital budget, with $188 million rolling over from the prior year.

Peoria’s growth reflected some positive growth numbers in the new budget.

Sales tax revenue is up 6.1% from the last year, with similar growth coming from the state shared sales tax, which is up 40.9% from the last year. Some of that growth had to do with delayed tax receipts from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The city also uncreased its vehicle license tax and state shared road funds and from the previous year, growing by 12.1% and 9.9%, respectively.

Forecasting for the upcoming budget, the city is expecting a 3% raise in its sales tax revenue, as well as the general fund revenues raising up 7%. Both of these forecasts will allow the city to fund other things, such as “one-time items.”

One of the most important budget items is the operating budget, as it has allowed for the city to start implementing important expenditures. With the general fund accounting for over half of the operating budget, the city has plans to spend its budget money across all aspects of Peoria.

Whole not increasing the city’s property or sales tax rates, the city will be tapping into its water supply, promising that customers will see a combined rate adjustment of 9% by July 2023, but a rate that will not disrupt the low utility rates in Peoria.

Money will also be spent in other departments across the city. The total money spent is expected to be roughly $44.6 million, the same amount as the difference from last year’s operating budget total to the current.

The city will be putting an emphasis on maintaining a competitive workforce, committing to various labor groups and merit/cost-of-living increases for unrepresented employees. The way it has done this is by adding 36 new full-time positions to the city’s authorized strength, of those are 11 new positions to the police force — one of Mayor Jason Beck’s main campaign promises he is following through on.

“This budget prioritizes investing in public safety and economic growth without raising taxes,” Beck said. “Strong revenue growth coupled with prioritization of much needed services our for our citizens put the city in a strong position to move forward with fiscal integrity while taking advantage of unique opportunities that will build a foundation for the city's continued economic growth for years to come.” 

The next, and possibly most expansive part of the budget, is its intertwined nature to the 10-year Capital Improvement Program (CIP).

The budget in fiscal year 2024 will allow for plenty of new projects to pop up throughout the city in the first year of the CIP. Due to the surplus $188 million rolling over from last year, the capital budget of $410.6 million increased over 44%, and the $1.1 billion CIP increased by 2%.

“Peoria prides itself on providing high quality water, sewer and solid waste services to its residents at an affordable price,” the city said in a press release. “The proposed budget funds projects to support Peoria’s safe and assured water supply.”

The CIP has big plans for Peoria’s expansion. The city will be investing in water and sewer infrastructure, including a $62 million project to the Central Arizona Project (CAP) pump station on Lake Pleasant Parkway; a $13.5 million project for a reclaimed water line to Paloma Park; a $21.6 million project for a reclaimed water line to stretch from Jomax Road to Beardsley Road; a $7.9 million reinvestment into the Salt River Project and CAP interconnect facility; a $10 million expansion to the Jomax Road wastewater site; and a $32.4 million expansion to the Beardsley Road wastewater site.

The CIP also promises to invest into a multitude of other facilities and roadways across Peoria.

Headlining the main investments includes a project to provide an auxiliary playing field and parking improvements to Peoria Sports Complex, a fleet shop replacement, drainage improvements to 67th and Pinnacle Peak roads, turf reduction programs for parks, and improvements to existing fire stations and the implementations of new ones.

The last thing the city will be planning for the new budget is maintaining buildings that are already in place.

The CIP is littered with renovations and refurbishments to preexisting buildings in Peoria. Possibly the most important of them is the $4 million renovation to enhance public and occupational functionality of the City Hall campus.

The historic facility has stood at Monroe Street as a mainstay for over 30 years, making this beautification process even more urgent for Beck and city council.

The program will also promise reinvestments into much of the older service buildings and infrastructure in Peoria, with more than $83 million being funneled into pavement preservation and management to aid in keeping streets in better conditions for longer.

“I appreciate everyone’s comments here tonight on every single topic,” Beck said. “We do hear you up here, we do listen, and we try to take things back with us from every angle.”