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Eloy pay ranks generally well in compensation study

ELOY — Last year the Eloy City Council hired Public Sector Personnel Consultants to conduct an employee compensation classification study to determine if the city was generally competitive with others throughout the state.

During a study session on Monday, Matt Weatherly with PSPC presented the finding to the City Council.

Weatherly provided different examples of jobs and how Eloy compares to other cities. In the study Weatherly compares the city’s midpoint pay range to the market midpoint average.

For clerical assistants in Eloy, their annual salary is approximately $150 under the market midpoint. Eloy police officers are paid nearly the same amount over the market midpoint.

“We have some agencies that pay a little bit more, some pay a little bit less,” Weatherly told the council. “Some get really aggressive with the step plans, where I can gain 95% of my pay raise within the first five years. So that’s kind of hiding in this data.”

The biggest differences where the city is under the market midpoint are in crew leader, utility operator and chief utility plant operator. The city currently is 8.77% under in crew leader, 12.37% in utility operator and 13.35% in chief utility plant operator.

“There’s a little bit of a theme across some of the skilled labor, some of the blue collar and utility positions where we’ve started to fall behind the market,” Weatherly said. “Overall, our averages are starting to fall behind, and these are highly certified positions.”

The study showed that current pay ranges are more than 5% below market for 30% of the survey sample, 61% is comparable to the market and 9% is above.

Weatherly pointed out that the increase in minimum wage is a factor because there is growth for those at the bottom of the pay scale. This causes some compression for the rest as those in positions above entry level are only making a few dollars more.

Mayor Joel Belloc said that the city has been giving 2% annual increases, and there was a year in which the city made a one-time lump sum payment to its employees.

Vice Mayor Micah Powell said there are also the added benefits that come with being a government employee, such as retirement and health benefits.

“Sometimes you may not have the best pay, but you have the benefits to back it up like a paycheck for the rest of your life from retirement,” Powell said. “It kind of balances out at one point when you can go in a private sector and get a 20% increase, but you’re not going to have the benefits and the retirement later on.”

According to Weatherly the findings from the study are common and the city’s 70%-to-30% ratio is really good.

“Really what I want to reinforce is anything that you’re able to do to keep salaries moving is good,” Weatherly said.

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Study: Skydiving bringing millions of dollars to Eloy

ELOY — Skydiving and related airport industries have dropped more than $19 million annually and nearly 200 jobs into the Eloy community, a study says.

The Eloy Municipal Airport Economic Benefit Analysis was conducted by the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University. It was presented to the Eloy City Council at its meeting Sept. 14.

Lee McPheters provided details of what kind of impact the airport and Skydive Arizona have on the community.

“The economic study was done under the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) guidelines, and the FAA guidelines emphasizes three key measures, which is the revenue created on the airport, the jobs that are created on the airport and then supporting jobs in the community and the payroll that is associated with that,” McPheters told the council.

There are many sources of direct benefits from the airport, a majority of which tie together with Skydive Arizona such as skydive training, parachute rigging and testing as well as food service and retail.

But there is also aircraft painting and maintenance, engine overhaul and repair, crop dusting and aerial photography.

Those direct benefits lead to 191 jobs and a $19.1 million output.

The secondary benefits come from activity by suppliers and vendors, as well as workers as consumers, which lead to an output of $6.4 million.

The total economic benefit from the airport is 244 jobs with an output of $25.6 million and a payroll of $13.1 million.

McPheters told the council that a weakness of the model is that economic data used for the input/output model are on a county basis.

McPheters’ team spent some time at Skydive Arizona’s Christmas Boogie event last year and concluded that the average money spent per person was nearly $1,000.

According to that visitor survey, an Arizona resident spent $487 compared to visitors from other states who spent $969 and international visitors who spent over $2,200.

“Those are particularly high-powered dollars because they come from outside and then they remain in the local economy,” McPheters said. “Just looking at this particular event with over 300 people attending, if you duplicate that several times over the course of the year, you have a fairly significant impact.”

Also during the meeting, the council adopted an ordinance to approve some revisions made the Eloy City Code regarding single-family residential architecture and Zoning Code fences.

Planning manager Jerry Stabley told the council that the goals for the update are to remove redundant and conflicting text and to simply make the code easier to use.

The most significant changes revolve around fences. Fence materials should be earth toned, and approval is not needed if the fence is 10 feet away from any property line on the subject parcel.

Stabley also addressed garages, saying new homes in the downtown area were not built because there was a two-car garage requirement. Now two-car garages will only be required in new subdivisions.

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Santa Cruz will have to make more cuts if another override fails

ELOY — It was around this time last year when the Santa Cruz Valley Union High School District was making its final push to get information out about its special budget override election.

That override failed by 14 votes, which led to budget cuts this year. That left some community members upset.

Due to the failed renewal of the 15% override, the district is down to 10% as it is phases out its current override. The item on this year’s ballot is to keep that 10% override going so that there are not more budget cuts next year.

This year the district cut its career and technical education construction and welding program and all junior varsity sports. Additionally, the district cut the soccer, tennis and track programs as well as spirit line.

“We’ve tried twice to pass the override and last time it failed,” Superintendent Orlenda Roberts said. “I think there were issues with the mail-in process, so we’re hoping people will support it because the cuts that we had to make in our activities programs are cuts that we did not want to make.”

The override paid for the teachers and coaches’ salaries as well as new equipment and uniforms.

“It pays for the salaries of our fine arts program, our music and art,” Roberts said. “It pays for the salaries of our career and technical teachers so a lot of those extras that you need in a high school to make it a well-rounded, full curriculum for the students.”

Roberts noted that many of the coaches will volunteer their time this year to keep the athletic programs going.

“We hope that we’ll still be able to continue but we won’t be able to buy new uniforms or anything like that, but we should be able to at least continue and I don’t know how long you can do that but we’ll do our best,” she said.

Business Manager Debi Tabeling added that taxes will not increase and said the recent budget cuts were around $150,000. If the override fails, the district will be down to a 5% override and another $150,000 will be cut next year.

“Those $150,000 are gone,” Tabeling said. “We’ll never see that amount again unless they go out in the next few years and ask for an increase of 15%, but that’s not going to happen.”

The SCVUHSD serves students from the Eloy, Picacho and Red Rock elementary school districts. One of the struggles it has faced is that many of the students outside of the Eloy Elementary School District end up attending a different high school and then those families do not support the override because their child does not attend that school.

“If we can get Eloy to overwhelmingly support this override, I’d like for Picacho and Red Rock to also support it because we do support their children, whether they choose to come here or not,” Roberts said. “My dad, who’s 95, he always votes for all the school stuff and all of his children have gone through school. But his feeling was always somebody helped pay those taxes when his kids were in school and even though he doesn’t have kids in school anymore he feels it's his obligation to help continue to support those schools and the children that still need it.”

In the past the high school district has helped its feeder programs by lending a school bus when needed and offering meals during the summer.

Roberts added that along with being concerned about the override, the district is also dealing with declining enrollment due to COVID-19 as many parents are pulling their kids out of school and into specific online programs.

“Our overall enrollment is down so there are no extra funds that we could use to make up the funds that we would lose from the override if the override does not pass,” she said. “Our main district budget doesn’t have the capacity so we would have to figure out what are we going to cut. So ... are you going to cut positions and have really large class sizes, what are you going to cut? And none of them are good choices.”

With the 10% override the district will not recover the programs that have already been cut. Roberts added that the district is trying to prevent deeper cuts and the elimination of more programs.

“Our budget that we had to start this school year had to be $150,000 less so there was no money to continue those sports within our budget and passing this 10% override is not going to bring all of those back,” Roberts said. “It will help protect what we still have and if our enrollment, we to start increasing or they changed the funding mechanisms for the schools and we start getting additional dollars from the state, we might be able to bring some of those back. But right now with declining enrollment and with the state also having financial issues, I don’t see that happening this year or even next year.”

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City, county agree on animal control takeover; mayor has concerns

ELOY — The city will turn over its animal control operation to Pinal County next month.

On Sept. 16, the Pinal County Board of Supervisors approved a contract between Pinal County Animal Care and Control and the city of Eloy, in which the county will take over the city’s animal control services. Pinal Animal Control Director Audra Michael said the county will use the city’s facility and a city vehicle, and the city will pay the county.

Michael said the county has more resources and can provide better service, and plans to begin in Eloy on Oct. 1.

City Councilman Georges Reuter has been a strong advocate of having Pinal County take over the city’s animal control services.

On Sept. 14, the City Council approved the intergovernmental agreement.

All council members voted yes on the agenda item except Mayor Joel Belloc, who abstained from voting.

“What motive is there. I know there was some indicators here but why do this program?” Belloc asked. “Why not have it done by Eloy? I mean, we have always done it.”

Belloc added that many low-income families will now have to travel outside of the city limits and will have to spend more money and time to retrieve animals.

“Hopefully this all works out as we go along and the future council will be the one to evaluate it here and determine what’s going to happen,” Belloc said. “I would like to indicate my vote is an abstain although I do support the majority of the program.”

City Manager Harvey Krauss told the council that the agreement would be financially beneficial for the city and that the county provides good service.

“I reached out to the county manager and the director of the Animal Control and Care Services with Pinal County and they were enthusiastic about taking and assuming responsibility for our operations,” Krauss said. “I think what we have here is a great partnership, another partnership with Pinal County, and I’m very proud of it. I think it will serve the city for many years.”

One of Belloc’s concerns was how much time it would take away the Police Department to coordinate with the county and transfer over all the information of animal cases and having the county become familiar with the city’s animal policies.

“There’s really not much difference in the amount of work placed on the Police Department,” Police Chief Chris Vasquez said. “Calls will come in; we’ll call Pinal County, and they’ll respond. Just like with our own animal control, if they ask the police to come out to assist then we’ll come out and assist when we can.”

Vasquez told Belloc that the animal control service is separate from the Police Department and that the police officers spend very little time helping out with animal control and once Pinal County takes over, he will assign someone to interact with the county animal control officers in case there ever is a reason for the police department to provide backup.

Vasquez added that he’s really excited about the agreement because the county’s shelter at Eleven Mile Corner seeks to be no-kill.

“They have a 10% or less kill rate and ours is around a 60% or 70% kill rate,” Vasquez said. “That’s a lot of dogs going down that don’t need to be euthanized. We just don’t have the facilities; we don’t have the manpower, and we don’t have the food for us to be a no-kill shelter. We’ve gotten better. We’ve reduced that kill rate since I’ve been here. It was much higher.”

Sgt. Kristie Barnette further explained that the police department only has two animal control officers, and sometimes due to accumulated PTO, there are no officers available. That leads to people having to wait to get their pets or police officers having to go out and handle a situation.

“We’re having to send officers out who are not particularly trained for animals, and we’re having officers trying to wrestle dogs if they happen to be vicious,” Barnette said. “I think that it will actually improve because we will actually have pretty much coverage five days a week, and we’ll be able to call out on weekends for emergency. We don’t have that ability. If we don’t have an animal control officer and there’s a vicious dog that bites somebody, the (police) officers have to try to deal with that as best as they can.”

In such situations as Barnette described, the police could not call the county animal control for help because there had been no intergovernmental agreement.

The contract will remain in effect until 2023 and can be automatically renewed for up to two three-year terms. Either party can terminate the agreement with a 60-day written notice.

The county will bill the city a monthly staffing fee of $4,200 and there is a $63-per-hour fee for any after-hour, weekend or holiday staffing.

Initially, a majority of the operations will be run out of the county facility located just outside Eloy’s city limits on Eleven Mile Corner Road, which was a concern for a few council members as far as having residents travel outside of the city for licenses, vaccinations and to reclaim their pets.

Pinal County Animal Control Director Audra Michael told the council that there would be vaccination events held in the city whenever staff thinks it would benefit the community and the Eloy shelter would be used once it is up and running.

The agreement also reads that the city would hand over its three animal control vehicles, but Michael said that the county would only need one vehicle and the other two vehicles would stay with the city for whatever they wanted to use it for.

“I’m very happy that (Audra) was very ecstatic and helpful from the beginning,” Reuter said. “I’m also very happy that Harvey was even more ecstatic about it, and last but not least, the chief is very happy about it and especially his officers. I think it’s going to make our city look better and the animals will be very happy.”


Staff Writer Mark Cowling contributed to this story.