After an initial budget proposal that included the layoff of at least six officers, Oro Valley police officials have presented the town council with an alternative that would save jobs.
Oro Valley Police Chief Danny Sharp gave the council the revised budget proposal at an April 13 meeting. Potential savings of that proposal top $479,000 in fiscal 2010, which begins July 1.
The chief's revised proposal includes the elimination of two officer's positions. It also calls for the council to suspend funding for the six positions originally placed on the chopping block. But that doesn't mean the town would lose those officers. The police department has applied for federal funding through the COPS program with the Department of Justice. A COPS grant would pay the officers' salaries, but only if the town cuts funding for their positions. Some of the $479,000 in savings then could be used to pay the salaries of other officers.
"If we don't get the COPS grant, we'll limp through," said Lt. Chris Olson, the chief's executive officer.
The police might know by October if they will get the federal funding. If the department lays off any officers before the grant comes through, the federal money could be used to back-pay the officers up to July 1.
The subject of spending cuts has dominated budget discussions this year.
The town faces a $5.2-million deficit in the coming fiscal year, and has had to discuss limiting town services and employee layoffs to stave of the impending shortfall. As many as 30 town workers could get pink slips before the fiscal year ends June 30.
The issue of police layoffs has been the cause of the most controversy, with some in community criticizing the strong show of support from officers at a March council meeting, and others angered at a radio advertisement purchased by police union officials.
"I've been a good supporter of police my whole time here and I'm a little damned disgusted with the radio ads," Councilman K.C. Carter said at last week's meeting.
The advertisement singled out Town Manager David Andrews as the driving force for layoffs, and took direct aim at his $165,000 salary.
Andrews attempted to address the issue at last week's meeting, while council members questioned Sharp about his revised budget proposal.
"The original request was to be programmatic," Andrews said.
On Monday, Andrews told The Explorer that when he and town officials began to realize the need for budget cuts, he called a meeting of department heads. In that meeting, Andrews said, he instructed the department bosses to search their budgets for potential cuts.
"I did not give them any specifics that it had to be people," Andrews said.
Inevitably, though, each department did present cuts that included personnel, an area that makes 75 percent of the operational budget. Police employees make up more than 40 percent of all town employees.
Sharp's initial proposal included the elimination of the community action team, a squad of officers that deals with drugs and other persistent crime problems.
Those officers likely would have been funneled back into patrol duty while six less-senior officers would have been laid off.