The Town of Marana has set a $170.41 million ceiling on its fiscal 2010-'11 budget, a spending plan that is $24.94 million smaller than that of a year ago, with reductions in general fund spending and town work force.

Marana's general fund budget for the year beginning July 1 would be $28.01 million, down $2.46 million (8.07 percent) from the $30.47 million budget of the current year. Capital outlay is pegged at $87.78 million; enterprise funds such as water, $39.86 million; and debt service, $7.3 million.

Authorized positions total 301.83 full-time equivalents, down 41 FTEs from this year's 342.89 total. The "vast majority" of the reduction has been the result of vacancy management and voluntary separation through Marana's use of employee incentives, Town Finance Director Erik Montague said.

There are no raises in the budget, according to Town Manager Gilbert Davidson, whether they be "step" increases for public safety employees, performance or merit-based increases for others.

The town projects use of $1.9 million in reserve funds, to include $1 million for contingencies, $600,000 for capital projects and $300,000 for settlement payments. "In the best-case scenario, we never have to touch it," Montague said.

The town has current general fund reserves of $14.5 million. This budget would take that sum to $12.6 million, adequate for cash balances, bond ratings and "capacity for major projects," Montague said.

Marana tries to keep "at least 25 percent of next year's appropriation" in the form of reserves, he said. "We're still at 45 percent. It's a very healthy reserve."

Marana has identified "a funding strategy to fully fund vehicle replacements," Montague said. Fourteen police units "need to be replaced," and will be.

Montague intended his budget presentation at last week's council meeting to be brief.

"In no way is that intended to make light of what the town has accomplished the last several months," the finance director said.

Difficult budgets can "tear a town apart," Montague said, but that hasn't happened in Marana. All involved have had "the interest, the information and the energy required to identify the various solutions."

The lengthy budget process has been "truly a community challenge" given "the hard fiscal reality of this recession," Davidson said. There have been nearly two dozen public meetings to help craft the plan. "I'm very thankful for the leaders you are," he told the council. "While no one likes to make these decisions … what we've put together tonight reflects the council's priorities," maintains reserves, does not increase taxes and is "structurally balanced," without "one-time accounting gimmicks."

Davidson thanked a number of people on his staff for their work, and all town employees for "working through this very, very difficult process. We have made tough decisions that won't have to be made in the future."

Formal adoption of the budget is scheduled for Tuesday, June 15.

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