Despite a growing population, the Town of Marana has kept its budget growth near 2 percent for years, and did so again last week with the passage of next year’s spending plan.
The entire budget is $143.8 million, half of which will be used for operational costs, 40 percent for capital outlay and about 9 percent for debt service.
Considering that the town’s overall expenses are increasing at a high rate, town manager Jamsheed Mehta said the town has been able to keep its overall budget increase rate low at just under 2 percent growth from last year.
“It’s usually a 9 to 10 month (budget) process that we go through, identifying priorities upfront and identifying those expenses that we don’t have a choice, we have to pay, once that part is done, we consider growth much after we’ve taken care of what our existing needs are,” Mehta said.
The general fund increased by about 3.9 percent, which is less than $2 million. Mehta said it has to do with increases in operational costs like resources and payroll. Marana officials have said that one of the key areas in which they plan to invest is town employees. The new budget saw the establishment of a paid parental leave program for all town employees effective July 1, and a tuition reimbursement program on the way.
Mehta said Marana is in a unique position because it’s growing at a much faster pace than the surrounding communities, and in order for them to keep up, they added 11 new full-time positions to their staff in this budget. It will cost them a little over $1 million annually.
The new employees will serve the Parks and Recreation, Public Works, Water, Police and Community and Neighborhood Services departments.
“We focused on those positions that are needed for delivery of services,” Mehta said. “There’s nothing in our administrative or clerical side, it’s mostly involved in terms of field work or direct service-related positions.”
Marana’s revenues have also been growing over the last few years. Mehta said the town has been seeing a strong number of single-family residential homes built each year, and almost all of them are immediately occupied.
“So our population is growing and that same family moving in is also consuming goods and services and paying into the sales tax,” he said. “Sales tax is our primary mode of revenue, since we do not have a general property tax.”
More residents means the town has to build more infrastructure to accommodate them. Town staff have worked to make that happen, while also ensuring that existing facilities are maintained.
“We are a town which is now coming to a point where some of the older areas are maturing,” Mehta said. “At the same time we also have a lot more to maintain, so we’ve done a lot of balancing out of costs between new infrastructure and maintaining the old infrastructure.”
He believes that balance is achievable because Marana saw the completion of a few major projects this year. Ina Road is now complete, the new police station is as well, and the town’s contribution to regional projects like Tangerine Road is finished, so that frees up money for new projects.
At last week’s meeting, Yiannis Kalaitzidis, Marana’s finance director, said the capital projects fund was reduced by $17 million because of the completion of the new, the Ina Road bridge project and more.
In the next year, the town plans to invest some of those revenues in community projects such as drainage improvements for the Adonis subdivision, reconstruction or restoration of several roads in north Marana and new infrastructure for several water systems.
The town’s enterprise fund increased by $14 million specifically for the construction of the water treatment plants. That project is financed with the help of federal grants and is expected to begin construction this summer.
In addition, next year staff expect to conclude several studies that have been in the works to determine future policies of the town. According to Mehta, they are preparing for the next 20 to 30 years of growth in several areas, such as the town’s general plan, drainage plan, sewer conveyance study, parks and recreation master plan, and more.
“Because we are a growth community, it’s not just dealing with next year’s growth, we have to plan for future infrastructure and some of it takes several years of planning and funding,” Mehta said.
The staff will offer recommendations based on the results of those studies starting next year.