by Lynh Bui - Apr. 23, 2009 12:00 AM
The Arizona Republic
While most Valley cities and towns have been lining up to grab their share of federal stimulus dollars, Scottsdale is taking a pass.
The Scottsdale City Council voted this week to turn down more than $224,000 in federal stimulus funds earmarked for public-safety improvements.
Fiscally conservative members of the City Council worried that accepting the money would create overhead that would burden future city budgets. They also were concerned that the city would be accepting the money just for the sake of spending it.
Since President Barack Obama's American Recovery and Reinvestment Act rolled out, some Scottsdale officials have made it clear they wouldn't take any stimulus dollars if it would add to the government or if it wouldn't boost the economy as the law intended.
Scottsdale is one of the first Valley cities to turn down stimulus funding.
Maricopa County received more than $10.5 million in money set aside for aiding law enforcement to divide among 16 cities and towns. Scottsdale's share came out to about $234,000.
The city considered three projects with the grant money:
• A $227,000 mobile police surveillance tower to help with crowd control during special events.
• A $9,500 auto-dialer that would call defendants about court dates and fines.
• $100,000 for a court enforcement employee, who would help collect $26 million in unpaid fines court defendants owe the city and the state.
A divided council voted to approve only the auto-dialer. The balance that Scottsdale rejected will go back to the county, which will decide how to divide it among 15 other cities.
Mayor Jim Lane and Councilman Bob Littlefield said it seemed like the city was only suggesting these projects because federal stimulus money was available.
"Is this something we would be doing if they weren't handing out 'hope and change' money?" asked Councilman Bob Littlefield while alluding to President Obama's campaign themes.
Scottsdale Police Chief Alan Rodbell said the mobile tower was something he planned to purchase using the city's capital improvement budget.
Scottsdale projects a $65 million gross budget deficit for the coming fiscal year. The city also has proposed 2 percent across-the-board pay cuts and redeploying or laying off 25 employees.
This is the first time Scottsdale has turn down stimulus funding. The city has received more than $14 million from other grants and funding packages.
While his colleagues debated the philosophical reasons for not accepting the money, Councilman Wayne Ecton wanted to take all of it.
"The money is there and if we don't spend it, somebody else is going to," Ecton said.