While the cities of Tucson and Phoenix are facing a more than a $30 million budget gap, the Town of Oro Valley has proposed not only a balanced budget, but one that includes development and growth for fiscal year 2014/2015.
During the April 2 Oro Valley Town Council meeting, Town Manager Greg Caton presented the $107.1 million recommended budget for the new fiscal year. The proposed budget is a $13.2 million increase from the current fiscal year.
When asked about the increase, Caton said the town started making cuts over several years, and now the town is able to budget for community-improvement projects.
“The Oro Valley budget is a lot different from struggling cities like Tucson and Phoenix,” Caton said. “This budget is about strategy. We took steps over several years rather than waiting for all of it to hit.”
The proposed budget, calls for $32.3 million in the General Fund, which is the town’s main operating fund. Caton is proposing a 13.8 percent increase from the 2012/2013 budget.
One of the major expenditures planned for the next fiscal year, which runs from July 1 through June 30, is a $1.4 million expense to implement a merit and step increase program for employees.
Caton said there are several reasons to justify the new merit and pay increase program for employees.
Several years ago, Caton said the town cut back positions, asking current employees to step up and do more. Many of those positions were left vacant.
The town also paid for a study to research why they were losing employees to bigger cities.
“We start to lose people when we see signs of recovery and the cost of turnover is tremendous on an organization,” Caton said. “The idea is really to decrease that turnover as much as possible.”
Mayor Satish Hiremath said he’s pleased with the direction the town is headed.
Instead of waiting until the last minute to balance its budget, “I think the hard work and the due diligence paid off four years ago when we faced a $3 million deficit,” Hiremath said. “I think the council back then had the wisdom to say, ‘You know what, out of $3 million, 50 percent [of cuts] comes from expenses, 50 percent comes from revenues.’”
With taking those precautions early on, the town now has a $1.7 million surplus in addition to investing in burying utilities underground, continuing pavement improvements, building the aquatic center, purchasing Steam Pump Ranch, and other improvements to the town.
“Now it is really time to enjoy the fruits of our labors,” Hiremath added.
According to the budget plan, the town also plans to transfer $1.4 million to the General Government Capital Improvement Project (CIP) for capital projects and $1.14 million in a one-time construction sales tax revenues to reserve for future capital projects.
Using its CIP funds, the town plans to replace the phone system at the town, purchase software, security cameras, build a new restroom facility at Naranja Park, expand the parking lot for the aquatic center, cover the pump house at Steam Pump Ranch, install a fueling facility at the Municipal Operations Center, purchase a 10-wheel dump truck, replace conduits and conductors on the street lights along Rancho Vistoso Boulevard, widen Lambert Lane and Naranja Drive, and put in a traffic light at Rancho Vistoso and Vistoso Highlands Drive, along with numerous other improvements in and around the town.
The town plans to hold two study sessions on the budget, with the first being on April 9 and the second on April 23, both at 4 p.m. in the council chambers.
On May 7, the town plans to hold a public hearing during the council meeting and adopt the tentative budget. On May 21, the town plans to hold another public hearing and adopt the final budget.
On April 3, the council unanimously approved taking the steps to rezone a 45-acre lot, which is east of Ironwood Ridge High School and north of Casas Church, from having homes being 144,000 square feet per lot to 7,000 square feet per lot. The rezoning would also include building a 120-lot Meritage Homes subdivision on the lot.
During the council meeting, Councilman Lou Waters expressed concern for the increase in traffic along La Cholla and Naranja.