City, parks panel officials address what Prop. 409 means for Havasu

June 26, 2018 GMT

Lake Havasu City is a town celebrated for its recreation opportunities. But if Havasu residents don’t act, city officials say recreation, among a litany of city programs, would face possible cuts next year.

The city’s Parks and Recreation Advisory Board met Monday evening to discuss the Proposition 409, a pending budget item that could determine the fate of Havasu’s budget for city services.

If a Havasu resident had $60,000 in his or her bank account, but was only allowed to spend a maximum of $4,000 per year, he or she would have to make a few sacrifices, regardless of income. Because moving back in with its parents isn’t an option, Havasu is going to need a little more freedom to spend, according to city officials.

The city’s present expenditure limitation was based on the city’s 1980 population, which was about 15,925. As of 2018, the city’s population is about 55,000. Proposition 409 would allow the city to double its expenditure limitation from $4.7 million to $9.5 million per year.

In almost 40 years, Havasu has outgrown those limitations, according to City Manager Jess Knudsen. Since Havasu was incorporated in 1978, the city has added 17 parks, the Aquatic Center, paved roads, stoplights, water treatment plants, an animal control division of the police department and the Lake Havasu City Jail.

“If Proposition 409 fails, our total operating budget will be down by about $11 million,” Knudson said. “We’d have to make some really difficult decisions, and could no longer offer some services.”

Repaying debt doesn’t count toward the city’s expenditure limit, Knudson said, and Lake Havasu City’s $463 million bond to repay the city’s sewer debt racked up a lot of it. Over time, Knudson said, Havasu had earned credit to buffer the impact of operating expenses on the city’s expense limitations, but that credit is disappearing. To continue offering city services such as Parks and Recreation programs, the city needs to be able to spend more money, he says.

If Proposition 409 doesn’t pass, Knudson said, all city services could see budget cuts including the city’s police, fire, maintenance, operations, wastewater, planning, building, business and other departments. The city’s summer camp, after school programs, youth sports and other activities could feel the impact.

According to Knudson, there’s no catch to approving the measure. There will be no increase or decrease in city taxes. Raising the city’s base spending limit will only mean Havasu will be allowed to spend more of what the city already has.

“Most of the towns that take this to the ballot see approval from registered voters,” Knudson said. “Whether it passes or fails, the impacts wouldn’t take place until July 2019 … This will set up the city’s budget for the next 5-20 years.”

None at Monday’s parks and recreation meeting objected to the proposed ballot measure.

“These are our funds,” said Parks and Recreation Advisory Board Chairwoman Ashley Pasqual. “It’s our money, and we elect leaders who know how to use those funds.”