Marana's target budget reduction for the fiscal year beginning July 1 is now $4 million, "ultimately, the whopper of all whoppers," according to Town Manager Gilbert Davidson.

The town has identified reductions between $1.61 million and $2.15 million through unfilled positions, recreation program savings, elimination of outside facilities leases, cuts in outside agency funding, insurance changes, reduced consulting fees, and altered policies regarding uniforms and take-home police vehicles, Davidson told the town council last week.

That leaves between $1.856 million and $2.39 million to cut. Options for those reductions might include the elimination or modification of programs and services, layoffs, mandatory furloughs for employees, and departmental reorganization or restructuring.

"There will be some very tough decisions we'll have to make in the coming month," Davidson said.

The $4 million figure is a large sum, particularly when "you take it in the context of what we've already done," with estimated general fund revenues dropping from $40 million two years ago to an estimated $27 million in the 2010-'11 fiscal year, he said.

For context, Marana could eliminate all spending for its eight smallest departments — building safety, legal, finance and accounting, human resources, development services administration, the mayor and council, the town clerk and community — to equal $4 million.

"Some departments we will not touch," Davidson said. "They're already at the bare-bone minimum. If we cut further, they will not be able to function."

For contrast, its two largest departments, police (28 percent) and parks and recreation (11.1 percent), consume 39.1 percent of all general fund dollars, or close to $13 million between them.

To save money, Davidson said the "vast majority" of funding for outside agencies "will have to be eliminated." He wants to make one exception; "some level" of funding for the Marana Chamber of Commerce, which is receiving $40,000 this current year to support its visitors center and outreach activities. "We should retain some portion of it, not all of  … what we've done in the past."

According to town documents, Marana's other outside agency funding this fiscal year includes $36,000 to the Western Heritage Committee to operate the Western Heritage Arena, and $2,000 to the Marana Food Bank to support its food box program.

To save money, Marana plans to eliminate outside facility leases through parks and recreation, explore partnerships with other organizations, and consider service modifications — among them, the reductions in hours and possibly the number of days a service is offered each week.

While "we're not going to balance this budget on fees," the town is going to go line by line through its fee schedule and make adjustments, Davidson said.

"We're going to have to raise fees, at least double, some programs even triple," Mayor Ed Honea said.

The council is scheduled to study final fiscal 2010-'11 revenue projections, and make recommendations on fee changes, at its March 30 meeting.

"Organization-wide furlough" options would be considered. "We're thin," Davidson said. "We've already cut out 39 positions. We have not replaced those people."

Internal reorganization and restructuring is also on the table. "That is the most difficult one, because you begin to deal with individual lives," Davidson said.

He was scheduled to meet with department heads last week. "Some departments have additional capacity to cut, but there will be impact on services," he said.

The council was glum and resigned at the latest news.

"This is very, very serious," said Councilwoman Patti Comerford, who criticized the council for its Feb. 16 actions regarding any new taxes. "I'm disappointed in our council," said Comerford, who was absent from that meeting, when the council made clear to staff it did not want to seek higher taxes. She suggested new taxes should have been "brought to the public. Now, like the state, it's too late.

"We're looking at running our town a lot different than we have in the past," she said. "Buckle your seat belts."

"We're going to have hours of reduction, we're going to lose some programs, we're going to lose some people," Honea said. In his 21 years on the council, "I've never seen it like this. We're not going to be able to keep everything going. Please be understanding on some of our decisions."

Davidson presents a balanced budget to the council on April 13. Tentative budget adoption is June 2. Final budget adoption is June 15.




Separation plan amended so it's uniform, consistent


The Town of Marana is amending its "separation incentive plan" by reducing its election period, and establishing one time frame of allowed employee separation with full incentives for those workers who decide to leave their positions.

It's all intended to help town government reduce its work force through voluntary means, and to save the town money as it faces a budget gap near $4 million.

In February, the council approved a separation incentive plan election period for employees from March 1 through April 30 of this year. With the approval of an amendment last week, the election period is now March 1-31, so the town can "proceed with the next steps for budget preparation," according to a report from Suzanne Machain, human resources director. "Knowledge of the vacancy savings that will result from the voluntary separations will be important for the development of the final budget recommendation," she wrote.

"We'll see how many people take a package," Town Manager Gilbert Davidson told the council. "We have to get through this next month … before we make other types of decisions" regarding personnel.

Originally, Marana offered two tiers of separation incentives. Workers who leave their jobs July 1-Sept. 30 would receive 100 percent of incentives, and those who leave Oct. 1-Dec. 31 would receive 50 percent of incentives. With changes adopted last week, all employees who choose to leave the town from now through Sept. 30 would receive 100 percent of all program incentives. That provides "the widest opportunity to employees who may wish to elect this option sooner than the beginning of the fiscal year," while helping the town benefit from any vacancy savings from an earlier separation, Machain wrote.

By discontinuing the present plan, and implementing the new one, Marana would achieve "consistency, and treat people fairly," she added.

The council passed the recommended changes without dissent.

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