Incumbent candidates Mayor Hiremath and Council Members Hornat, Snider and Waters, the Majority-4, claim that they inherited a $3.1 million deficit that they fixed. They further claim that what they did was remarkable. "If you think about what this council has done, it's beyond remarkable," candidate and current Mayor Hiremath boasted at the Greater Oro Valley Chamber of Commerce Candidate Forum.
We've done our homework. We've done our research. We've talked to others who were on council at the time. We now present the facts to you. You be the judge. Is what they did remarkable?
Fact Check Summary:
- The recession was over when the Majority-4 took office in 2010.
- Oro Valley was in excellent financial condition when the Majority-4 took office in June of 2010.
- A 2011-12 tentative, proposed budget showed a $3.1 million difference between requested spending and forecasted revenues. This was the second budget that the Majority-4 were to approve. It was their proposed budget. They did not inherit it from any previous council.
- It is our assertion that the Majority 4 caused any difficulty in balancing the 2011-12 tentative, not yet adopted budget because they refused to consider reasonable spending cut alternatives, alternatives done by many other fiscally responsible communities.
- The Majority-4 partially solved the difficulty they created by reaching into your pocket and raising taxes on you.
- And there's more...
Fact: Government statistics show that the recession was over when the Majority-4 took office.
Though some politicians, like Mayor Hiremath, may assert that the recession was not over, US Government Gross Domestic Product ("GDP") data, the only measure of a recession, shows that the recession ended in 2009.
In fairness, the town was still feeling the after effects of the recession until 2102. For example, it took several years from construction revenues to resume.
In boasting that they saved Oro Valley from financial disaster, Mayor Hiremath also asserts that this recession was the worst in US history. Perhaps the Majority-4 are too young to remember or failed to listen in their school history class. The 2007-2009 recession does not compare in depth or longevity to the 1930-1941 Great Depression or to the depth of 1978-1980 double play recession where the rate of inflation and interest rates were in double digits. At that time, there was an energy shortage that was so bad that then President Carter urged Americans to lower their thermostat and to wear a sweater to keep warm.
Fact: Oro Valley was in excellent financial condition when the Majority-4 took office in June of 2010.
Barry Gillaspie was a council member when the Majority-4 took office. Bill Garner was also on council at that time. Their recollection was that the recession hit the Town well before the majority took office in 2010 and that the town successfully worked its way through the difficult recession years.
Council Member Gillaspie told us in a recent email. "Clearly," he observes "the recession hit the Town well before the majority took office in 2010". He continues:
"I must be clear: The Town was never and has never been in a deficit situation.
The Town Council successfully worked to achieve a balanced budget and to secure long-term stability for the Town. This has been a constant for all Oro Valley Councils that I am proud to tell you!
Prior to 2010, the Town Council enacted many measures to lower Town expenditures and stabilize budget projections; staffing reductions through attrition, restructuring of debt, hiring freeze and many other actions.
Oro Valley was never then and has never been since in a deficit situation."LOVE's research confirm's Barry's recollection.
For example, before the Majority-4 came to office in 2010, there was a projected 2010-2011 tentative, not yet approved, town manager prepared budget that showed a shortfall of spending over revenues of $1.8 million.
Kinks had already been worked out at that time.
Town Manager Jerene Watson and Town Finance Director Stacey Lemos presented many options for balancing this not yet approved budget. They worked to bring spending in-line with revenue projection.
"Department heads were told early on to cut 3 percent to 5 percent from their budgets and many exceeded those guidelines. That has allowed the town to balance all its funds, with the exception of the transit fund, Lemos said." (Source)Town staff, and the previous council, had fixed the shortfall and created a balanced budget for 2010-2011.
There was no deficit. There was no crisis.
So where was this possible crisis?
A 2011-12 tentative, proposed budget showed a $3.1 million difference between requested spending and forecasted revenues. This was Majority-4's budget. They did not inherit it from any previous council.
This is the $3.1 million to which the Majority-4 refer. This is not a deficit. A deficit only occurs when actual spending exceeds actual revenues. This never happened. As former Council Member Gillaspie reminded us: "Oro Valley has never experienced a deficit."
What Oro Valley has experienced and what every business, public or private experiences, is a situation in which the amalgamation of spending requests by departments, called budgets, exceed future revenues. When this happens, negotiations take place and the budget is brought into balance. It is that budget that is approved.
In March of 2011, a full year after their election, the Majority-4 faced a tentative town manager proposed budget projected shortfall for 2011-2012 of $3.1 million. (source) By this time, they had provided guidance to town staff about what they wanted to see in the budget. It was the Majority-4's budget. The tentative unbalanced budget that was initially created, the one that showed this difference, was one that they certainly contributed to creating through the guidance they provided during the year.
Long before their budget deliberations, the council, and therefore the Majority-4, were aware that there would be a budgeting challenge in 2010-11. This is because budget projections had been prepared by the town finance director. "It is true that long-term budget projections showed a budget deficit but a deficit would only occur if the Council did nothing!" according to Gillaspie.
The council did do something.
It LOVE's assertion that the Majority 4 caused any difficulty in balancing the 2011-12 tentative, not yet adopted budget because they refused to consider reasonable spending cut alternatives, alternatives done by many other fiscally responsible communities.
There were plenty of alternatives to fix the shortfall by further reducing spending. This could have included reducing the police budget without any change in public safety. Oro Valley has always been a very safe town.
The Majority-4 partially solved the difficulty they created by reaching into your pocket and raising taxes on you.
So, the Majority-4 refused to do what other councils from 1974 to 2010 had done: Reduce spending.
Instead, unlike what was done by all but one prior council, the Majority-4 chose to reach into your pocket. They doubled the utility tax (source) to fix part of the shortfall.
The Majority-4 had promised to not increase taxes during their 2010 campaign. So much for truthful electioneering.
This was not the first time the utility tax was used to help the police. It had been enacted in 2007 to pay for six police officers and it was supposed to sunset in 2009. But politicians love taxes. They call taxes: "Sustained revenue sources." And once a tax is enacted, it never goes away.
And there' more.
Fact: Garner and Gillaspie saved Coyote Run
Today, the Majority-4 want credit for saving Oro Valley money by turning Coyote Run over to RTA. They want you to think they created a win for everyone. Do you remember the events surrounding Coyote Run? LOVE does.
Fact: As reported by LOVE , the Majority-4 (plus Council Member Solomon) voted to eliminate Coyote Run in 2011 and to not make provision for most of those, Oro Valley's most needy, who use the service.
It was Council Member's Gillaspie and Garner who led the fight to sustain existing service levels for Oro Valley's most needy, using Coyote Run as an asset to negotiate for the county. It was also the appearance of 100 of Oro Valley's most needy at a council meeting that also made a difference. The Majority-4, then the majority 5, "blinked." (Source)
Garner and Gillaspie saved Coyote Run: "A surprise motion was made by Council Member Garner and seconded by Councilmember Gillaspie to maintain Coyote Run service as is and to direct the funding to come from the Bed Tax fund for FY2011/2012.." They found the money to sustain it.
Eventually, the Majority-4, realizing that they had made a really bad decision, voted to further study the Coyote Run situation and work with the RTA. Mayor Hiremath, by the way, voted against even doing this!
Council Member Garner remembers what happened quite well. "Barry and I had met with the Coyote Run people many times, early on. We did our best to represent them. We turned it around in council. We must have done such a good job that Mayor Hiremath decided to move us to the side and put Council Member Solomon and Waters in the drivers seat. It would have been nice to have even been asked to help out at that point. We did the work. Then Mayor Hiremath disrespected us."
Who are the heroes? Who did remarkable things?
Are Majority-4 Oro Valley's heroes?