Wednesday, May 7, 2014

John's Place: "Roll Out The Oro Valley Pork Barrel"

The FY2014/2015 Town Manager’s Recommended Budget (TMRB) will be reviewed and voted on at the Town Council Meeting tonight. There will also be a public hearing on it.  It will be the only time the public will have any input into what is an Oro Valley record-setting spending budget.

The TMRB has a quote from Oro Valley Town Manager Greg Caton: “The demands of the organization continue to evolve as the Town sees significant signs of economic recovery.” (Source: TMRB Caton Transmittal Letter, page 1 Paragraph 3)

What a change four months makes!

In January 2014, Oro Valley Economic Development Manager Amanda Jacobs said: "The economy is beginning to recover. But we have not fully recovered. And we won’t in the next year.” According to a University of Arizona economist, she noted, ..."the recovery remains painfully slow by historical standards."

At that meeting, Oro Valley Mayor Hiremath voiced his opinion on the economy, concurring with AmandaJacobs: "We are nowhere close as a nation or close as a town to being out of this recession. So though we may have substantial growth over a prior year, it is a relative issue based on pre-recession times."

Yet, despite these stated economic assumptions, the Oro Valley town manager has proposed a budget that sets record spending levels, levels far in excess of anything ever proposed.

We've gone through the TMRB. We've read the Oro Valley town council "study session" briefings. We've concluded that this spending level is outrageous. In fact, it is outright dangerous in that it establishes a baseline of spending that will be impossible to reduce.

You want some examples of "outrageous"?  We'll give you some examples of "outrageous."
  • "The Town Manager’s Recommended Budget for fiscal year 2014/15 in the amount of $107.1 million" is "a $13.2 million, or 14.1% increase from the Adopted FY 2013/14 Budget totaling $93.9 million." (Source: TMRB Transmittal Letter).  A 14% increase is, in and of itself, outrageous.
  • Employee Compensation is usually based on productivity increases, not across the board rewards. The TMRB includes $1.5 million of increased employee compensation.  The basis for this is a flawed "comparative compensation market study" conducted by a Dallas-based consulting firm, of which we have previously reported. 
  • United Health Care and the town's insurance broker are recommending an increase in premiums to fund expected costs in the Town's self-insurance fund. A 7% premium increase has been included in the TMRB for both employee and employer contributions.  The TMRB document does not show the dollar-value of this expenditure. There is no discussion in the TMRB about the potential effect of or cost of the Affordable Care Act. 
  • The TMRB includes moving to a self-funded model for dental insurance coverage. Once again, the TMRB document does not show the dollar-value of this expenditure. 
  • The TMRB plans for an on-site health and wellness clinic that would start in January 2015 and be available for employees and dependents covered through town health insurance. The investment in an on­ site health clinic has been funded in the TMRB at approximately $76,000, of which $15,000 is for one-time start-up costs. There are study details that have been given to the public. There was a first presentation made at the April 23, 2014 Budget Study Session by a vendor for on-site health clinics. 
  • The current year budget FY2013/2014 for Development and Infrastructure Services Department included funding for contract personnel to assist with the General Plan Update. As a result, one full-time, temporary senior planner and two part-time, temporary office assistants were hired to fill this need. These positions have been included in the TMRB. They are temporary and will be eliminated when the General Plan Update is complete. The TMRB document does not show the dollar-value of this expenditure.
  • The Aquatics Center has added a few additional part-time, non-benefited facility attendants, shift leaders and lifeguards in order to staff this facility. These additional positions have been included in the TMRB.  The TMRB document does not show the dollar-value of this expenditure
  • The Water Utility added one 19-hour per week (non-benefited) customer service representative. The TMRB document does not show the dollar-value of this expenditure
  • The TMRB plans for a police evidence facility.   In the 2013/2014 budget, $350,000 was set aside for initial planning ($30,000) and land acquisition ($320,000).  In the TMRB, $200,000 is recommended for the design of the facility. The TMRB identifies $2.5 million as a placeholder to construct the facility.  The police chief based his need for an evidence facility on an internal police staff study that the public has never seen.   Is the Town investing significant funds without extensive evaluation of the need?
  • $200,000 has been included in the TMRB for improving the safety of the the Tangerine and First Avenue/Rancho Vistoso intersection. What safety measures are to be undertaken? 
  • The Town operates and maintains the street lights in Sun City Vistoso.  In order to fix electric deterioration issues, an amount of $200,000 will be spent in each of the next three years budgets to rewire the circuits ($600,000 in total). Why does Sun City Vistoso receive this budget money from the Town? 
  • The TMRB includes replacing seven (7) marked police vehicles; one (1) general administration vehicle; four (4) trucks combined for DIS operations, facility maintenance and inspection and compliance divisions; field groomer and truck for Parks and Recreation, and matching funds for ten (10) grant-funded Transit vehicles at a total budgeted cost of $964,800. The Water Utility Fund will replace two (2) vehicles per the replacement schedule at a budgeted cost of $85,000. Vehicle replacement is usually based on a projected useful life (such as wearing out in 5, 7, 10 years) which is not the same as based on the usage of the equipment. Has a useful life evaluation been done? 
  • An interim parking and circulation road have been included in the TMRB for the aquatic center at a cost of $184,000.  Has a traffic study been done to support the parking improvements related to pool usage? 
  • Oro Valley has committed piecemeal spending of $2.3 million for a dog park and 2 multi-sport fields in Naranja Park and $40,000 in FY2013/2014 for a Naranja Master Plan update.  The TMRB includes the Naranja Master Plan update continuation at another $40,000. Also, the TMRB budgets $250,000 for a restroom at Naranja Park.  Why the piecemeal spending before the Naranja Master Plan update is finished in 2015? 
  • Funding is included in the TMRB to increase the frequency of the Oro Valley Vista Newsletter from quarterly to an abbreviated, bi-monthly printed publication to be mailed out with Water Utility bills. There is no estimate of expenditures.  Why do we need this publication more frequently.  Most people don't read it now.
(Source: FY2014/2015 Town Manager’s Recommended Budget-Caton Transmittal Letter)

Those are a few of the items that we have identified.

It's pork barrel spending time in Oro Valley.

We don't like it.

Do you?


Richard Furash, MBA said...

Thank you, John, for this information. It scares me how much will be spent with so little public input.

Richard Furash, MBA said...

If passed in the budget tonight, the social/economic floor created for the privileged few in the O.V. civil arena will be a travesty. The creation of special, elite service providers & systems for town employees is an insult to the residents of this town. Reading the outline of this proposal which is made by O.V. Manager Caton, reminds me of the smug insouciance of the perks & privileges of our national Congress.

Oro Valley will invite the same corruption and crookedness into its midst if this measure is approved in the upcoing budget.

Richard Furash, MBA said...

Last night, John, your factual message and questions certainly upset the mayor. It was with much dismay and concern that I listened to mayor. For an elected official, who should not respond to an audience speaker, the mayor certainly had a lot to say to you. His comments were rude, inconsiderate, disrespectful and mean spirited. By making his comments during a public discussion, the mayor again demonstrated his disregard for the citizens of Oro Valley.

Richard Furash, MBA said...

(QUOTE) His comments were rude, inconsiderate, disrespectful and mean spirited. By making his comments during a public discussion, the mayor again demonstrated his disregard for the citizens of Oro Valley. (QUOTE)

How long?
How many times?
Why do we put up with his poor behavior?

The tax and spend mayor must go. The Fox is in the henhouse!!!!

Richard Furash, MBA said...

Cares, I just watched the video, and did not see John speak during the call to the audience. When did he speak?

Richard Furash, MBA said...

I find it incredibly comforting that Oro Valley has a citizen like John. I bet that John has invested more time in reviewing the budget that the combined time of the Majority-4. John is truly an Oro Valley gem.

Richard Furash, MBA said...

Is he running for Council?

Richard Furash, MBA said...

John spoke during the budget section. On the video, advance to 2:54:15. The mayor commented about 3:05.

Richard Furash, MBA said...

Thanks, cares....

Richard Furash, MBA said...

Cares, I think John has tougher skin than most. I didn't think the mayor's comments were rude, inconsiderate, disrespectful, or mean spirited. They were just his perspective of the issues of the moment. His tone was a little aggressive at times, but overall, I thought he was pretty reasonable. Just my thoughts....