It’s been just over a month since I officially took over the reins as Oro Valley’s town manager, and I have been received with such a warm welcome, both at town hall and within the community. I am profoundly grateful for the overwhelming kindness and support.
During these first 30 days, I have begun evaluating the organization and its short and long-term goals, as well as challenges. While there are always ways in which an organization can improve, there are even more ways in which this organization shines. A few of those have stood out during this initial assessment, and I felt they were worthy of sharing with the community.
First, I want to confirm what most of you already know: Your town government is filled with employees who are dedicated to service. These are employees who care deeply about the residents of Oro Valley, from having safe neighborhoods and well-maintained streets to quality recreational facilities and programs. I have met with nearly all of the town’s employees, mostly in small groups, and heard consistently that exceptional customer service is a priority. I observed a 911 dispatcher spend more than 20 minutes on a non-emergency call, assisting a resident with an issue above and beyond their normal duties, and it was done with patience and kindness. I learned of the joy transit drivers receive from helping elderly customers get to their appointments at the VA, or even to the grocery store. I felt the pride our Water Utility crews have in finding and fixing leaks as soon as possible to minimize inconveniences to residents. I heard the passion of our police department’s school resource officers as they humbly described the impact they have on the lives of the students they serve.
Of equal importance is the town’s strong financial position, with its conservative forecasting, budgeting and expenditure management practices. In the town’s main general fund, the recovering economy has signaled positive trends locally, resulting in increased sales tax collections. With no primary property tax in Oro Valley, the town relies on sales tax revenues to fund its general government operations such as police, planning, permitting, parks, recreation and maintenance functions. One-time resources such as construction sales tax dollars are wisely applied to one-time capital outlays like updated recreational amenities and building repairs rather than funding ongoing expenditures. After just two full years of operation, subsidy of the town’s new community center has been reduced considerably, with discussions underway to identify and implement additional ways in which we can continue to lower that number.
Departments continue to do their part in being good stewards, having ended the fiscal year under budget. Those savings contributed to the year-end fund balance increase of nearly $2 million as of July 2017, a positive trend since FY11/12. That means the town has a reserve fund of $12.5 million, representing an extremely healthy 37 percent of its annual general fund budget.
Strong partnerships are evident between town departments and other governmental and non-governmental entities, such as the Golder Ranch Fire District, Pima County, the Regional Transportation Authority, the Greater Oro Valley Chamber of Commerce, the Southern Arizona Arts and Cultural Alliance, Visit Tucson and a host of others. These partnerships allow for efficient and collaborative service delivery, infrastructure investment, and outreach, stretching and sharing local resources where possible.
Finally, your Oro Valley Town Council and staff have been careful to assess and adapt to the changing priorities of the community by putting plans into place that fine-tune services to meet community needs now and into the future. The 2016 voter-approved Your Voice, Our Future General Plan took note of our changing demographics, from a retirement-focused community in its origins, to the thriving and diverse demographic of today, with nearly 75 percent of our residents under the age of 65, including families and young children. As such, your town government has given thoughtful consideration to funding allocation, such as two additional school resource officers for Oro Valley’s two new schools, Innovation Academy and Leman Academy. To keep up with the growing demand for field usage in our parks, two more multi-use fields with lighting are currently being constructed. A robust multi-use path system is already in place, with plans for future extensions as the community grows. These are only some of the many examples of your forward-thinking town government.
In just 30 days, I have seen first-hand what an engaged community we have in Oro Valley, and I am proud to be at the helm of a dynamic team of dedicated and talented employees. Coupled with a visionary Town Council, this organization is strong and ready to move into our next chapter of success.
Mary Jacobs is Oro Valley Town Manager.