Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Garner, Burns, Zinkin: Why This Budget Deserved A "No" Vote

The Oro Valley Town Council approved a record $107.1 million budget for 2014-15  by a 4-3 vote last Wednesday.  This is a 13.1% increase over prior year.

The Majority-4 (Mayor Hiremath and Council Members Hornat, Snider and Waters) voted for the budget.  Council Member's Burns, Garner and Zinkin did not vote for the budget.

In their remarks to council, council members Zinkin and Burns clearly stated their reasons for not supporting this budget.

Council Member Zinkin did not support the budget for a number of reasons. These are detailed and supported in the PowerPoint presentation at right.  (You can view the presentation to the right or  you can view it by clicking here.)

Zinkin was not allowed to present this PowerPoint document because it was objected to by Mayor Hiremath.  According to Council Attorney Kelley Schwab, meeting materials are supposed to be included with council meeting materials one week in advance of the meeting.

Zinkin continued that he felt that the budget includes a "hidden" increase in the number of employees and a substantial increase in average compensation (including benefit cost) per employee.  He believes that the raises are being granted based on an invalid compensation study.  "Our employees are well paid and they deserve it. Do they deserve to get paid as much as an employee in Avondale [or other Pheonix Communities]? The cost of living is much more up there."

Zinkin continued that he can not support this budget because the spending "...is not balance between the community and the employees"   Zinkin asserted, "We could give our employees their step and merit increase and a 2% raise, which is what is going on in the general public. I'm guessing that that would save us half million dollars. What would you do with that? You give it back to the people. Green parks in the winter time. Maybe do something with SACCA. Do something with Procter-Leiber.  There is all sorts of things we could do to give back to the community."  Perhaps even fund some of the ideas Council Member Burns put forth, as follows.

Council Member Burns observed: "I'm voting against the budget today and I have two main reasons why." First, "I personally believe that a budget is a policy document and more importantly a reflection on our values....I had only one budget request and that was for the town to provide programs for disabled an flow income individuals," asserted Burns.

"Our town does not have any program for disabled or low income individuals." This, despite, the fact that, according to Burns, "...24% of students at CDO use subsidized lunches, 22% at Copper Creek, Wilson 17%."  He concluded, "Oro Valley Is a very wealthy town. Yet I believe we ignore those that need the help the most."

Burns' second reason for not supporting the budget is that the budget does not discuss how the town is going to be funded in the future.  Council Member Burns asserts that Oro Valley has a defacto property tax because many of the town's assets have been financed by the county.  Burns asserts that Oro Valley would have better control of these funds it it assessed its own property tax.  However, Council Member Burns is not advocating for an Oro Valley  property tax.

Council Member Burns concludes that the best time to have this conversation about funding is when discussing the 2015 General Plan since there are so many future items being considered for investment but no identification of the sources of the funds for these investments.  "I don't think that relying on the county bond fund to fund our capital needs is the way we should go."

Be sure to take a moment to watch Burns' eloquent remarks.

Council Member Garner also voted "No."  When asked why, he provided three reasons:
  • There is nothing in the current budget that addresses the needs of the citizens as much of the budget increases were due to employee raises and benefits that in the long term will cost the Town fiscally. 
  • The salary study was flawed from the outset with much of the results suspect as many comparisons were done using cities and Towns much larger than Oro Valley. This salary study was never fully vetted to the public until much later in the process and was never going to appear until the issue was pushed to have it part of a budget study session. 
  • There continues to be wasteful spending throughout the budget to include items such as being paid overtime for hours paid instead of hours worked as well as many areas in the budget where department spending continues to rise with little to no explanation.
The common thread among the three "No" votes is that each of these council members studied the budget in detail. They then compared the spending to a "citizen-centric" standard.

Compare their response to that of Council Member Snider. She voiced what appeared to be, a response for the majority:
"I don't mind new ideas. I have a problem with grandiose suggestion coming when we make a motion to pass the budget.  We could have had these conversations earlier and I would invite you to bring these ideas forward but give the council and staff an opportunity to vet these ideas. Let us debate them."
Apparently Snider had not heard Burns' remark that he had brought his ideas forward but that they were never considered. Or Zinkin's comment that the numbers Town Manager Caton had provided at the prior council meeting had been misleading. Or had not considered Garner's and Zinkin's educated evaluation of the salary study.

More to follow on Snider's response will follow in a future posting: "Management By Happenstance" or "Who Runs Oro Valley?"
(Because of the holiday this week, we will post our regular Tuesday feature, "Heather's Corner",  tomorrow.)


Richard Furash, MBA said...

Oro Valley does NOT need it's own property tax. Not with Pima County hitting us with a 13% increase. Are you trying to drive us out?

Richard Furash, MBA said...

And, if OV had a property tax, the money would we wasted, just like some of the projects in the budget cited above!

Richard Furash, MBA said...

And here comes Victorian Cowgirl with her annual battle cry. There can be NO PROPERTY TAX in Oro Valley because we were PROMISED that the tax revenue from the JUNK MALL (and all the extra traffic, crime, and pollution it would bring) would eliminate the need for a property tax. Remember, it was a HOME RUN for Oro Valley!!!!

Richard Furash, MBA said...

Council Member Burns was not advocating for a property tax. He was advocating that it is important for the town to identify where it is going to get future revenues for the many things its citizens are requesting. An alternative revenue source could be a renters tax.

Richard Furash, MBA said...

Yes. Most of the OV police non-traffic related activity is in and around apartment buildings!

Richard Furash, MBA said...

Thanks for investing the time to bring us up to speed on, among other things, the real estate situation. Why do you think things are not going well in this regard in Oro Valley?

Richard Furash, MBA said...

That's not good.

Richard Furash, MBA said...

Lack of meaningful good paying jobs. The jobs promised in the "High Tech" corridor have just not materialized. Our daughter who lives in Tucson (age 24), and her friends are finding good paying jobs up in Phoenix. Her company just gave her a nice salary increase to keep her in Tucson. Also, with the exception of "Noble Hops" there really aren't a lot of places for young people to go to socialize.

Also, the marketing of the town to attract new residents and businesses are weak to say the least, and to rely on groups like TREO is folly. When our friends and family visit us they can't believe how beautiful OV is, and are amazed about things like Catalina State Park, the excellent hiking and biking trails, and some even call this area the Mecca of golf. The town should be conducting aggressive marketing campaigns to promote OV's unique beauty instead of wasting money on funding TREO. We have a great expanding Charter School, beautiful aquatic center, and in Steam Pump Village a possible great venue that should not be squandered. A few months back a Wine Tasting event was held at Steam Pump, and the attendance was outstanding. Pump up the volume to rehab Steam Pump!

My fear is things will just get worse once the over 1,200 apartment units on Oracle are completed, and OV will begin lose it's beauty, and begin to age ungracefully . There is no way young people can afford the high rents that will be initially charged, and will these apt units eventually be turned into low-income housing to fill the vacant units??

Richard Furash, MBA said...

Thanks for the reply. Your explanation is worthy of a guest view. I believe that we should be posting more for the real estate community on LOVE.

Richard Furash, MBA said...

How about the high-end homes being built on LaCholla ? Who's going to be able to afford those?