In a unanimous vote July 16, the Oro Valley Town Council approved the fiscal 2009 budget, a spending plan that tops $203 million.

The total represents a nearly $1 million reduction from what Town Manager David Andrews originally sought.

One stark reduction was the decision to end town support of the Northern Pima County Chamber of Commerce.

The chamber was scheduled to receive $27,500 through the town’s community funding process, but the council opted to end its support.

A town contract for the chamber to provide tourism and visitor services, business retention and outreach efforts, and special events calendar services expired June 30.

“It’s going to hurt us a little bit,” said chamber President Ramon Gaanderse.

At the July 2 council meeting, Councilman K.C. Carter proposed cutting the group’s funding on grounds that the chamber had crossed into politics. He suggested the group used money provided by the town for political activities.

During the recent town council election, the Northern Pima County Chamber of Commerce’s political action committee endorsed incumbent Terry Parish, who lost his bid for re-election.

Carter and other council members said the town should not give money to groups that advocate for political candidates or issues.

Chamber member and former Explorer publisher Melanie Larson excoriated the council for implying the group had used town money for political ends.

“At no time was any public money used,” Larson said.

Gaanderse took issue with the way the council decided to cut funding.

“There was never any negotiations or dialogue,” Gaanderse said. “They had their discussions without us.”

Barry DiSimone, one attendee who opposed town funding of the chamber, said in his experience as a business owner, the chamber was not helpful to him.

“The chamber was serving very large interests, not mine,” DiSimone said.

Another group, the Greater Oro Valley Arts Council, received a larger sum than originally proposed.

GOVAC will get $120,000 from the town in fiscal 2009. The total includes an estimate for the cost of town services such as use of parks and police at group-sponsored events.

The council also authorized hiring three new town employees, down from the five-employee increase proposed by Andrews.

Employees will get a 1.5 percent cost-of-living raise and up to 4 percent in merit pay increases.

The police step-pay raises also got the go-ahead. Roughly 30 percent of the department’s employees are not eligible for the scheduled raises having already reached their wage thresholds.

The final budget also includes $115 million in funding for capital improvements like roadwork and infrastructure.

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