Kouts seeks to streamline Safford donation process

Safford Mayor Jason Kouts, during a 2020 appearance on Voice of the Valley. - David Bell Photo/Gila Valley Central.

SAFFORD — Safford Mayor Jason Kouts wants to make it easier for the City Council to decide who gets money.

During discussion at Monday’s regular meeting, Kouts asked staff to include a fixed amount for donations as part of the upcoming budget deliberations, as well as a simple form for the city’s nonprofit organizations to complete to request donated funds.

“(What) would be my number one goal is that whatever benefits the city, the manager and staff gets these together and brings them to us. And we spend a Friday or a Saturday and we kick these around,” Kouts said. “So that not a single one of you guys ever get blind-sided again, or feel like you’ve been blind-sided, by something that I bring up that I’m die-hard about it, and you guys feel like you have to go a certain. I don’t want that to ever happen.”

City Manager John Cassella said staff will include $50,000 in the council’s budget for the coming year as a pilot program, as well as establish an application form to request funds during the city’s budgeting process.

He also suggested putting money in contingency for requests that come up after the budget has been approved.

“A lot of budgets have them built into departments; you try to keep them at a minimum,” Cassella said. “But, particularly in council’s case, if you wanted to put something additional in there for yourselves, as part of this budget process, we could put an amount of money in there to be expended in whatever way you, as a council, would choose during the year if something came up.”

At the March 8 meeting, Councilman Arnold Lopez said the council felt “pressure” was placed on them to approve a request for donation to Eastern Arizona Hispanic Heritage Corporation, calling the request “political.”

The request was originally in 2021 for the city to expend money to join the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, but Kouts said he would rather see that money spent on a local Hispanic organization. The result of that discussion was the council approving an increase in the donation to Eastern Arizona Hispanic Heritage Corporation from $1,500 to $2,700 in fiscal year 2021-22.