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PHOENIX -- From first being dangerously low on cash to now posting a surplus, the city of Surprise, Ariz., could be a model of recovery.

It was only last year that a budget crisis revealed the city only had $500,000 in its general fund reserve, forcing the city to make drastic cuts.

"We did a lot of things -- mostly cut expenses," said Vice Mayor Skip Hall. "Seventy percent of our expenses are personnel."

The city had to lay off 19 people as a result and postpone numerous maintenance projects for the city.

Hall said now that the city is posting a surplus, that money will go those long-overdue city improvements.

"We've got a couple of road issues we need to finish, like Mountain View Boulevard," Hall said.

Other proposed improvements include work to city parks and roadways, new youth and sports programs, expansion to the Surprise Stadium and the city's first Boys and Girls Club.

"We really kept our eye on the ball, and our employees kept their eyes on the ball," Hall said. "It hasn't been easy."

Mark Remillard,

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