A reorganization of Oro Valley's management structure and the addition of nearly 16 employees are among the major elements included in a nearly $106 million budget submitted by Town Manager Chuck Sweet to the Town Council.

The proposed $105.9 million budget for the 2004-2005 fiscal year beginning July 1 represents an increase of 2.6 percent, compared with the previous year in which the budget soared 23 percent from $83.5 million to $103.2 million.

The biggest gainers in Sweet's recommendation to add 15.75 full-time equivalent positions are in the areas of public works, which would increase from 46 to 53.5 full-time equivalent employees and police, which would increase from 117 to 121 with the hiring of three lieutenants and one receptionist.

This would be the first time in 13 years that money has been set aside for the lieutenant position in response to officers' concerns of a logjam at the middle management level that prevented sergeants from advancing and patrol officers being promoted to the sergeant ranking.

The budget includes merit raises of up to 4 percent and a 1.6 percent cost of living adjustment, said Finance Director David Andrews.

Among the organizational changes being sought by Sweet are the hiring of an assistant town manager at $90,000 annually who would oversee the Public Works Department and the Community Development Department, including planning and zoning, building safety, the library and parks and recreation.

The assistant town manager position had been requested previously but was substituted for the hiring of a special projects coordinator.

The reorganization would also involve the promotion of the town's public information officer to the level of a department head as a community relations director to "increase the town's opportunity to communicate with the citizens of Oro Valley on a more regular basis with an efficient flow of information from a central source" and "more importantly, it would allow for the development of new or expanded programs that would serve neighborhoods, seniors, youth and other demographic groups," Sweet said in an April 26 memo to the council.

Major projects included in the $22.5 million set aside for capital improvements include:

€ Extending La Cañada Drive by constructing a four-lane road north from Tangerine to Moore roads.

€ Building a new bridge alongside the current one over the Cañada del Oro Wash and widening First Avenue to four lanes from Tangerine Road to the CDO Wash.

€ Connecting Lambert Lane to Oracle Road by extending Pusch View Lane and building a new four-lane bridge over the CDO Wash.

€ Providing a linear park from La Cañada to First Avenue.

€ Expanding the town library from 15,000 to 25,000 square feet with a portion of the cost being covered by recently approved Pima County bond funds.

The town also plans to complete the first phase of its reclaimed water system by June of 2005. The system will run from Tucson Water's system near Thornydale and Tangerine roads east to La Cañada and Moore and on to Rancho Vistoso. A second phase that would take in the Hilton El Conquistador golf course, Copper Creek Elementary School, Pusch Ridge Christian Academy and CDO Riverfront Park is scheduled for completion by July of 2007, a year ahead of schedule.

Town revenues from all sources are projected to total $45.7 million, down $196,042 from the current fiscal year despite an anticipated $1.4 million, or 8 percent increase in general fund revenues due to local sales tax collections, building permit fees and state shared revenues.

The decline is being attributed largely to the completion of several road projects. The revenue total includes $19.4 million in the general fund, which is used to pay for expenses such as police, parks and recreation, library services, development services and administration.

This will be the third straight year in which projected town expenses are expected to exceed revenues. The $1.3 million shortfall is being offset by a $7.4 million carry forward that enables the town to maintain a $6.13 million contingency fund, the lowest contingency fund since the 1998 fiscal year.

While new major commercial centers currently going through the planning review process aren't expected to significantly improve town revenues for another three years, recent approval of a 2 percent increase in the construction sales tax and last year's annexation of the Oracle-Magee roads area are helping to preserve cash reserves in the short term, Sweet said.

The town's Budget and Bond Committee also is considering a 4 percent sales tax on telecommunications and utility services that would generate an additional $2 million a year.

Tentative adoption of the budget by the Town Council is scheduled for June 16 with adoption of a final budget set for July 7.

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