It is the tale of two budgets. While Oro Valley is challenged with where to make deep cuts due to a lack of growth, in neighboring Marana, officials spent their first budget work session planning how to spend extra money coming from a growing population.

Marana Town Manager Gilbert Davidson led the budget discussions for the upcoming 2011-2012 fiscal year. The April 25 work session centered around the town’s $33 million general fund.

While Oro Valley didn’t grow as much as anticipated between 2000 and 2010, Marana welcomed the 2010 Census results with open arms. Between 1990 and 2000, the population grew from 2,187 to 13,556 residents. Between 2000 and 2010, the population continued its upward climb, going up to 35,559 residents, or a 162-percent increase.

Oro Valley experienced minimal growth, with a 41,011 population. Between 2005 and 2010 town officials had anticipated the population to increase to around 45,000.

With a population increase, Davidson explained it means more money from state-shared revenues. Marana is anticipating an added $1.3 million in state-shared funding when the new fiscal year begins July 1.

With the extra funds, Davidson is focused on rebuilding staff. Budgeting $517,000 in the general fund, the town manager is adding six new full-time positions to the recommended general fund budget. The positions include an assistant town manager, police commander, senior human resources analyst, a building inspector, environmental coordinator and a fleet technician.

“These six are critical in moving forward,” Davidson said. “We have learned that if you cut too deep it really impacts operations.”

With a recovering economy, Marana employees have not received a pay increase in three years, and when a position was vacated, it was left unfilled.

While Davidson is not recommending any pay increases, staff will get some added benefits in the new fiscal year. Davidson budgeted $346,000 for what is being called the Absences Reduction program.

Still in the planning stages, Davidson explained the employees have a lot of unused vacation time, and if any of them were to quit or retire at any point the town has to pay.

To reduce the liability to the town, and provide an incentive program, Marana staff will now be allowed to sell the hours back to the city. This will allow the employees not planning to use all their vacation time to get some extra cash throughout the year, Davidson said.

Adding new employees to the payroll is part of the Marana Economic Recovery Plan, which was created during council and staff discussions in January.

Of the $517,000 allotted to the six positions, $90,000 has been budgeted for a new police commander.

Davidson said newly-hired police chief, Terry Rozema, has identified the department’s needs moving forward, and one of those is hiring a new commander.

Davidson stressed a lot of the positions are not new, there is just funding available to replace the vacant seats.

Not waiting for 2012, the assistant town manager position has already been filled. Del Post was hired in April. With an annual salary of $125,000, Post is the son of Marana school board member Dan Post, and is the brother of Marana Councilman Jon Post.

After being questioned by Councilwoman Roxanne Ziegler on filling the position before the new fiscal year, Davidson said the funding became available after another employee had retired.

Another new position, the environmental project coordinator, will make up to $47,000.

“This position is in line with the council’s vision to become more business friendly,” Davidson said. “There is a great effort across the nation to expand green building programs. We haven’t been able to do that because we haven’t had the staff.”

Besides increasing staff levels, Davidson also budgeted $2.5 million to invest in new equipment, vehicles and facility improvements.

After Davidson’s presentation, finance director Erik Montague took some time to talk about the current state of the town’s general funds, noting that Marana is in good financial shape.

“The recommended budget makes significant investments in the recovery plan,” he said. “Major revenues have stabilized and/or improved slightly.”

In 2012, Davidson is recommending a $33 million general fund budget, with Montague stating $2.3 million will be available in contingency funds.

As the economy continues to recover, Montague said he expects construction tax revenues to increase with continued commercial and residential growth.

While Davidson budgeted for 200 single-family permits to be pulled in 2011, the town has had 224 to date.

In 2012, the budget calls for at least 250 new-home permits, along with permits for commercial construction.

Montague stressed it’s important to present conservative estimates in the recovering economy.

The council ended the 90-minute session with a vote to include the recommended general fund into the final budget. Davidson said he will be bringing other budget recommendations to the council at future meetings.

Councilwoman Ziegler said she is particularly interested in seeing what Davidson will recommend with utilities and wastewater.

All eyes are on wastewater as the Town of Marana continues to move forward with plans to take over the business from Pima County.

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