During the first budget process since the Flagstaff City Council passed the new climate change plan last year, it approved funding for two requests critical to the implementation of the plan, but not without a caveat.
The decision came after council received a letter from the city's sustainability commission expressing concern that the requests for funding had not been granted in the budget suggested to council by the city manager.
The requested funds will pay for a climate and energy data coordinator, as well as software used to track and calculate the greenhouse gas emissions released by the city each year, said City Sustainability Manager Nicole Antonopoulos.
Antonopoulos said both requests are critical to the implementation of the climate action plan and the work currently being done.
Council agreed with the requests, with Councilmember Austin Aslan and Vice-Mayor Adam Shimoni specifically pushing hard to approve.
Aslan said if the city is trying to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions released in Flagstaff, the first thing it needs is a way to measure the progress.
“We're trying to go on the diet, and you need a scale,” Aslan said.
Antonopoulos said while Flagstaff has used similar software in the past, this will allow for far more precise and sophisticated calculations when tackling the city’s emissions.
Although the council approved the two requests, it did not dedicate additional funding. Instead, the section will have to take money from previously approved sustainability projects that it might see as lower priorities.
Antonopoulos said the section doesn’t know exactly what will be cut as it still needs to send a new funding proposal to the city manager, but in all, it will need to find about $64,000.
At the last sustainability commission meeting, Antonopoulos said they may use the money originally planned for hiring a part-time outreach coordinator working on climate issues and money from the section’s energy efficacy rebate program.
Because money is only being moved around within the funds the section has already been appropriated, it doesn’t impact the section's base budget.
Sustainability Commission Chair Brian Petersen said he was pleased about the council’s decision, adding the city budget is the most important policy decision council makes each year, and the approval of the two requests shows that council is beginning to implement aspects of the climate plan.
“I really appreciate the fact that council is taking this so seriously,” Petersen said.
Petersen said he understands the position councilmembers are in when making decisions on the budget and the various priorities they are balancing.
This budget process also saw some other changes in the wake of council passing the climate plan.
For example, this year requests for additional funding from all city sections and departments were sent to the sustainability commission for review.
Petersen said he and commission member Dara Marks-Marino went through every request made by departments across the city to determine which requests furthered the goals of the city’s climate plan.
In the end, about 75 of the requests approved by council were determined to do so.
Adrian Skabelund can be reached at the office at email@example.com, by phone at (928) 556-2261 or on Twitter @AdrianSkabelund.
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