Mayor Paul Loomis and the Oro Valley Town Council delivered the annual "State of the Town" address last Tuesday at the Hilton Tucson El Conquistador.
Loomis spoke in person and on a video made with other members of the town council.
As a group, they touched upon accomplishments and challenges of the last year. Council members mentioned items such as improved mass transit and the prospect for bus pull-outs along Oracle Road, passage of rules to improve the environmental effects of housing, plans to pursue the town's Central Arizona Project water allotment, work at historic Steam Pump Ranch, the desire to protect public safety, the pursuit of a library district and the need for new revenues.
Loomis spoke specifically about "the first time in our history we faced a deficit," and the difficulty in trimming Oro Valley's spending. "Even greater challenges are ahead," the mayor said.
Excerpts from Oro Valley Mayor Paul Loomis' "State of the Town" address:
In the eight years that I have had the honor of coming before you to share the state of our community, this has been, without a doubt, one of the more … interesting years in Oro Valley's history.
The council, working with the Arizona League of Cities & Towns, has spent a great deal of time and energy in the past year putting up our own fight to thwart efforts by the state to balance the budget on the backs of cities and towns by taking away our financial resources. We've seen some success, thanks to the efforts of our state representatives and Gov. Brewer …
Clearly, budget concerns have driven the agenda in the past year. Oro Valley faced a budget shortfall of $5.2 million — or more than 15 percent of our total operating budget. Next year, state shared revenues are expected to be down by at least an additional 13 percent, and we know new construction has virtually ceased to exist altogether. I'm sure you can imagine the difficulty the Council and all of our Town employees faced in assessing how we would deal with such a dramatic shortfall.
Oro Valley simply cannot spend more than it receives. New revenue sources must be considered. Even if we add no new programs or services, our population of more than 44,000 residents will continue to grow and demand additional resources from the Town. I've said it before: we cannot continue to depend on sales tax revenue as our sole financial base. If we want to continue to promote our quality of life in Oro Valley… to continue to be a community of excellence … we have to be willing to pay for it.
We have reduced our workforce by 35 positions and therefore been able to make up our operating budget shortfall without having to pull funds from our reserves. We also made cuts in programs and services throughout the organization. In addition, we are continuing our hiring freeze.
Managing through this recession and recovery is going to require diligence, forward thinking, and leadership on our part to ensure that we provide the services and programs our community demands.
The news isn't all bad. Despite the recession, we've accomplished a great deal over the past year, from community infrastructure improvements, to enhancing internal systems and controls that improve efficiency and customer service.
As you can see, although our financial resources are limited, there are things we have done and can continue to do to move ideas forward. We cannot cease to operate as a town while we deal with the economy, but we will be prudent in our efforts.
I want you to know that the State of Oro Valley is strong. Yes, we have challenges.
Many attended, but not 3 town council members
By Patrick McNamara
Oro Valley held its annual state of the town luncheon last Tuesday, Sept. 29 at the Hilton El Conquistador.
State legislators Al Melvin, Vic Williams and Nancy Young Wright, Marana Mayor Ed Honea, Vice Mayor Herb Kai, and council members Russell Clanagan, Patti Comerford and Carol McGorray mixed with residents and staffers from Oro Valley, Marana and Sahuarita.
Noticeably absent from the event were Oro Valley council members Bill Garner, Barry Gillaspie and Salette Latas.
All three told The Explorer that scheduling conflicts prevented them from attending.
"It makes it tough based on my schedule," said Garner, who works as a clinical research coordinator for a pharmaceutical firm. The councilman also did not attend last year's state of the town.
Latas also said a conflicting schedule prevented her attendance. She also criticized what she saw as insincerity regarding the theme of last year's event and Mayor Loomis' speech.
"The meeting last year was all about sustainability, and then the council voted down a citizen-led sustainability commission," Latas said. "So the words just seemed to ring hollow."
Asked if her absence was in protest to the recent forced resignation of Town Manager David Andrews, which she opposed, Latas said no.
Gillaspie, who works for Pima Community College, also had work obligations that prevented him from attending the luncheon.
Although Gillaspie said his absence was not intended to protest Andrews' ouster, which he also opposed, he acknowledged the sensitivity around the issue.
"I have to admit," Gillaspie said, "that it would have been difficult."