Youngtown contemplates financial future

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by Fields Moseley

Bio | Email | Follow: @fieldsmoseley

azfamily.com

Posted on September 15, 2011 at 10:58 PM

Updated Friday, Sep 16 at 8:17 AM

YOUNGTOWN, Ariz. - A lot of cities are struggling to balance budgets.     

Federal money is gone and states have less to spread around.  In the case of Youngtown, Ariz., the mayor says a day is coming when citizens have to decide between new taxes and perhaps joining another city.

Herb Kennel came to Youngtown to get away from it all.

“Since '78 -- 33 years,” he said.

At 91, he still surveys the neighborhood every day, but he doesn't always like what he sees. It is no longer a retirement community and he worries the city is truly short on cash.

“The way that I prefer is to tax everyone,” he said. “I'm for a property tax right.”

Last year, Kennel was in the minority when people were asked whether the town should institute a property tax. Another long time resident, Jim Trollen, voted against it.

“I think with the proper approach, this town can be maintained as is in the lifestyle we enjoy,” Trollen said.

But Mayor Mike LeVault says the time for planning is now.

“We don't want to wait until we get in crisis to take action,” LeVault said.

LeVault said Youngtown is not broke. It can keep drawing on its rainy day fund for the next three years to make ends meet. But he wants people to decide what they want to do in the long term. Do they want to join another town, become a county island, cut services or start collecting a property tax?

“They are skeptical,” LeVault said. “I'm skeptical just because the way we've been misled by our elected officials at the state and federal level.”

LeVault said the price for maintaining city services keeps going up and tax revenues are going down. Reality isn't far away, he said.

He said the city already cut a third of its workforce and the day is coming where a tough choice will have to be made.

Youngtown has a survey residents can take on its website. The town council will host an informational meeting Monday to answer more questions. They hope to come up with a long term plan by the end of the year.

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