Aztec officials scheduled to release five-year plan for city later this year

Hannah Grover The Daily Times
The Daily Times

AZTEC — After five years of work on building city infrastructure, officials here are turning their attention to the future.

City Manager Joshua Ray presented a proposed budget for the next three years to commissioners during a work session Tuesday evening. The city will release a new five-year plan later this year. Over the next five years, the city will focus on infrastructure, community development, recreation and economic development, and tourism.

The proposed budget for fiscal year 2016 is approximately $36.8 million, which is a 4 percent increase from last year's budget.

During fiscal year 2016, the city will focus on three large projects: the East Aztec Arterial Route, the sewer outfall line and the North Main Avenue corridor extension project.

Ray said the small projects will have to wait for later years because of a lack of funding.

He said the city will have to focus on finding new revenue sources. The business incubator project — which would provide entrepreneurs training and office space to start new ventures — has three possible revenue streams, but Ray said if those sources do not materialize, the project may have to be abandoned.

"The capital outlay bill (that was not passed by the state Legislature), that's a huge revenue stream," Ray said.

Ray also stressed the importance of developing local businesses and encouraging residents to shopping locally. He said the incubator project, which will help entrepreneurs start businesses, and the artists-in-the-plaza program will help these businesses get going in Aztec.

"We have got to figure out how to get those entrepreneurs into a place and our money into their stores," Ray said.

He said the city will be in bad shape "if the economy doesn't improve and if the dollar doesn't stay in town."

While the city has faced challenges generating enough revenue, the budget message, which is available online, highlights the successes of the previous five-year plan, including median improvements, monument signs, new park development, the North Main Avenue pedestrian bridge and walking trial, automation of the water plant and the completion of Reservoir 3.

During the commission meeting following the work session, Phil Soice, a civil engineer with Southwest Water Consultants Inc., spoke about the reservoir and the water utility.

For the first time in many years, the cost of operating the water utility exceeded the revenue it generated, Soice said.

Commissioner Katee McClure asked if that could be due to voluntary conservation.

Soice said that could be a contributing factor, especially considering the rate increase implemented two years ago.

"As people see their bills coming in, they start taking their lawns out," he said.

Hannah Grover covers Aztec and Bloomfield, as well as general news, for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 and Follow her @hmgrover on Twitter.