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City of Surprise's finances on the mend

Things are looking up financially for the City of Surprise.

In March of 2012, an audit revealed the city had misplaced $73 million over a period of 10 years, causing the city to dip into their savings.

"Almost a year ago, the city's auditors and accountants detected 'missteps' in the budget from the past decade. They were forced to dip into their rainy fund that was 'knocked nearly to zero,'" said Surprise City Manager Chris Hillman.

But now the city's money problems are improving. Hillman explained the city's efforts to reduce the debt.

"The city council made an immediate policy direction that they wanted a fully [re]funded reserve, which is, by policy, $13 million...They wanted that filled and completed within 24 months, so the city has set out on a course this past year to accomplish that."

Hillman said the Surprise City Council has made conscious efforts in replacing these funds by reducing expenses. They have cut 34 employee positions and placed some capital projects on hold. However, the city was able to do this without impacting services to residents or raising taxes and fees.

This week, the revenue the city anticipated for this fiscal year is above what was expected: from $500,000 to $1.7 million. They are hopeful for a budget surplus, which will help replace more of the money to be put in the reserve.

"We're cautiously optimistic that things are progressing well, and even a little ahead of schedule at this point," said Hillman.

About the Author

Martha is the traffic controller in the KTAR newsroom. Her full time role is that of Assignment and Breaking News Editor of KTAR News. She oversees daily Breaking News planning and over-the air execution, and puts together the elements that make it happen. She gathers and distributes daily news assignments to reporters and editors. She also reports on a daily basis, anchors news afternoons 1-2p and fills in as anchor occasionally during other time slots. She began working at KTAR in the winter of 2012 as Desk Editor and was promoted to oversee Assignments and Breaking News in 2014. During that time, she received two awards as a journalist. The first was the 2013 APTRA Awards, where she took home 2nd place for Best Serious Future in the "Recycled Orchestra." The second was a 2014 Edward R. Murrow Award for her collaboration in KTAR's Voice for a Better Arizona Series: Immigration - seeking solutions. In her piece, Martha profiled two Arizona sisters looking for the DREAM. Martha was born in Mazatlan, Mexico. She moved to Arizona in 1996 with her parents and younger sister and has lived here since. She attended Barry Goldwater High School in Phoenix and graduated from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communications at Arizona State University in Tempe. Prior to working at KTAR news she worked in news and production at Univision Arizona in Phoenix. She also supervised the marketing, catering and public relations department at Hotel Araiza, 5-star hotel in Mexicali, Mexico. She has also been a personal trainer and aerobics instructor. When she isn't in the newsroom or behind the microphone Martha is an avid gym-goer and marathoner. She trains for two races a year and enjoys taking group exercise classes, such as kickboxing, indoor cycling and weight lifting. Martha is married and lives in Surprise, AZ with 2 dogs, Tasha and Elsa, and a cat, Sammy.


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