More cops, more cop pay in Marana budget - Tucson Local Media: Import

More cops, more cop pay in Marana budget

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Posted: Tuesday, May 31, 2005 11:00 pm

June 1, 2005 - The Marana Police Department will see 10 new officers added to its lineup and a bump in salaries for the upcoming fiscal year under a preliminary budget presented to council members May 26.

During the first of four budget workshops, Town Manager Mike Reuwsaat told council members that the 2005-06 budget is estimated at $89.7 million and includes $59.5 million in capital improvement projects. But with the way the town is growing, this year's emphasis is on the personnel and operational side, not capital improvements, he said.

"With the amount of growth we have, without any increases in operational expenses, it was time to refocus on providing the necessary tools and funds to provide high-quality services over time," Reuwsaat said. "The primary emphasis of the budget continues to be parks, police and transportation. That's what has brought us success and that's what we have prepared the budget to reflect."

A preliminary draft of the budget is expected to be presented to the council for approval June 21, with final approval July 5.

The budget attempts to maintain quality services by increasing staff and operational support, with the largest budget increases in law enforcement and development services.

Along with the personnel additions, the police department's pay scale will be revamped to help keep Marana competitive with other area agencies, including Pima County, Tucson and Oro Valley, Reuwsaat said.

On top of a $6.3 million baseline budget, the police department is receiving $535,945 in additional funding requests.

The retention and recruitment of police officers was the focus of discussion for a large part of the two-hour meeting.

In order for Marana to remain competitive with other agencies, Reuwsaat said he's recommending a change in the police compensation plan and recommending commissioned officers be changed to a step plan similar to other municipalities.

"It's a substantial policy change," he said. "It's the first time that we take a group of employees from our employee base and we move them onto a different evaluation process and a different compensation plan. But it is the most significant competitive area we have and I don't think we can afford not to do this."

Reuwsaat said the town evaluated the number of years of service and current salaries of its police officers and put them into comparable steps with their counterparts in other agencies. Under the adjustments, some officers will see a very small increase in pay and some could see a 15 percent increase, but the average is about 8 percent, Reuwsaat said.

In the eight-step program, officers will be evaluated and awarded pay increases if they meet expectations.

Pima County and Tucson officers are currently on a step program similar to the one Marana will be adopting, and Oro Valley is also moving toward a similar program, Reuwsaat said.

"The town overall has done as well as they have over the years to provide (police officers) with the best equipment possible, but as far as salaries, we're concerned they were still lagging behind," said Police Chief Richard Vidaurri, who recommended the hiring of 15 new officers, but will get 10.

The 10 officers, at an annual cost of about $267,760, include eight patrol officers, a detective and another sergeant. The additions would help the town maintain a ratio of 2.5 officers per 1,000 residents, Reuwsaat said.

Reuwsaat said Tucson has approved the addition of 200 officers and Pima County is looking at bringing in several as well, which leaves Marana behind if it's not offering competitive salaries.

"Everybody's trying to recruit against each other, from each other, and trying to find out where we're going to have a pool of 300 new officers in this area," he said. "They're just not there."

Vidaurri, whose department has seen one of the highest turnover rates in the Tucson area, said the officers who leave his department to go to Pima County and Tucson usually do so after gaining experience in Marana.

"Typically, the officers I've seen leave have had anywhere between three to five years experience with Marana," Vidaurri said. "But I've seen officers leave here that were here even longer than that."

"When you lose that kind of experience, you lose a whole lot to your organization," Reuwsaat added.

Mayor Ed Honea expressed concerns that Marana could find itself in the business of artificially creating wages if it tries to keep up with Tucson, which also competes with Phoenix.

"It just kind of seems like we're just taking medicine instead of fixing the illness," Honea said. "Is the same thing going to happen next year? Are Pima County and Tucson, which have huge budgets, going to pop them up again, and are we going to be in the same boat? It's happened several years in a row."

"We're just going to keep cutting each other's throat. I think Oro Valley actually bumped up past Tucson for a while, and then Tucson bumped up again. Where does it end? It's not that I don't want to pay a fair wage, but I mean, we could get to an artificial wage eventually, simply because of a lack of certified personnel."

Reuwsaat agreed and said the best thing Marana can do is provide its officers competitive wages. He said next fiscal year the town would add an additional detective, given the fact that about 10 bodies have been found dumped in Marana this year.

The proposed 2005-06 budget attempts to balance operational expenditures and operational revenues, but proposes taking $1.3 million from the general fund reserves for capital improvement projects. But Reuwsaat said that while he's budgeting that amount he does not expect to reduce the reserves to that extent.

About two thirds of the town's budget is composed of the $59.6 million in capital improvement projects to meet the town's infrastructure and equipment needs. But Reuwsaat said it is the town's employees who will come first this year.

On that note, he's recommending townwide salary adjustments for employees based on a recent salary analysis conducted by an outside consultant.

Department heads suggested that some of the town's employees weren't making competitive wages, so the town's human resources department worked with an outside consultant to compare salaries with other organizations, Reuwsaat said. He's now recommending $123,000 in raises to bring town employees up to minimum market level and adjust salary plans.

"I think giving $123,000 is not a lot of money to bring equity among our workforce," Reuwsaat said. "A lot of the employees are not even aware that they're going to be getting raises at this time, but, for me, it was important.'"

Reuwsaat also is recommending a cost of living allowance of 2.5 percent and a 4 percent merit increase.

To meet the needs of growth, the proposed budget includes the addition of 21.5 new full-time employees, including a building inspector, a new plans technician and a legal assistant. Parks and Recreation will see a new senior programmer and another maintenance worker. Public works will get a new engineering aide. Operations will get a new small-engine mechanic and a maintenance inspector. And Town Clerk Jocelyn Bronson will get a new administrative secretary.

Reuwsaat said a budget analyst also is being added to the town's staff to help identify cost savings and evaluate the town's current financial practices. He said he'll be requiring staff to develop a five-year operational and capital improvement plan to identify future trends and their effects on future budgets.

In the past, Reuwsaat said the town's revenue has far exceeded expenditures, but with new growth comes increased costs.

The town is expected to have issued 1,800 single-family residential permits by the time the 2004-05 fiscal year closes, translating into an additional 4,800 new residents to the town, which is still a conservative estimate, Reuwsaat said. The town issued a record 208 single-family residential permits last month alone.

"In the past, there's been an awful lot of revenue to cover the expenses and now we've gotten to that growth curve where basically our operational revenue and expenditures are close or they're overlapping," Reuwsaat said. "Each year, from now on, we need to be careful to make sure we're budgeting where our expectations are, that we maintain our reserves so we can maintain our financial health and our bonding rating."

Reuwsaat said the town can expect the police department to have two divisions: one on Ina Road for the south part of town and one inside the existing Marana Municipal Complex.

Even though state revenue sharing hasn't increased in the past five years, the town's population continues to increase and will increase general fund expenditures related to growth, Reuwsaat said. As such, the town's continuing reliance on retail sales tax will not be sufficient in the long term, he said.

"We're going to be adding 10,000 people every two years to our community," he said.

Recently approved impact fees for future park development will allow the town an alternative to tapping into general fund reserves as it has in the past, Reuwsaat said. Funding for roadway improvements has been augmented with the addition of a new transportation impact fee in the northwest part of Marana and a half-cent increase in sales tax.

Reuwsaat said that if the Regional Transportation Authority is successful next May in obtaining voter approval of a countywide half-cent sales tax for regional road improvements the town will have to reevaluate its half-cent sales tax.

The town is preparing an analysis of transportation needs and funding in the northeast part of town, which is the only area of Marana without an existing transportation impact fee. That could be the subject of an upcoming study session very soon, Reuwsaat said.

Reuwsaat also is asking for approval of a water connection fee increase and a water impact fee to pay for infrastructure and nonrenewable water resources directly related to growth. A town water fund, if approved, will be a fully self-supported enterprise fund including debt service.

Reuwsaat said the town also is evaluating an impact fee relating to storm water and drainage infrastructure such as the Barnett Lineal Park and Storm Water Project. He informed the council that it can expect a study sessions on such issues in June.

"We need to do a northwest area drainage plan," he said. "It's something I think we'll need to do in the next year."

The town's development review fees, which have not increased since 1994, also are being recommended for increases.

Reuwsaat said Community Facility Districts will continue to finance public infrastructure and cover some operational expenses.

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