Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Budget Time In Oro Valley

In the near future, Town Manager Caton will be unveiling the 2015-16 Oro Valley budget.  The budget will likely exceed last year's record $103 million budget.

The 2015 budget will include mandatory wage increases for town employees.  We suspect that it will include the costs of operating the El Conquistador Country Club since the council has approved this purchase.

We expect much discussion regarding this year's budget, especially in the area of public safety. Its not a matter of whether public safety is important to the  community. Nor is it a matter of diminishing in any way the effectiveness of Oro Valley's public safety. It is simply a matter of good fiscal management.  Every budget request should be challenged.  And that challenge should be thorough.

Council Members Mike Zinkin and Bill Garner are castigated, especially by the Majority-4 on council, for their inspection of the public safety budget. Zinkin and Garner do so on the basis that the department reports to the council and not to the town manager. Therefore, they both feel that is incumbent on them to monitor public safety spending; and that they must continue to do so until the department reports to the town manager.

One should give credit to Council Members Garner and Zinkin for their persistent look a at public safety spending. They are doing their job.

Their latest attempt at analysis, a rather simple request to provide the cost of specific public safety programs, turned out to be a big deal.

This big deal happened because Police Chief Sharp and Town Manager Caton refused to provide information that Zinkin and Garner had requested. Sharp and Caton declined on the basis that providing information by program requires significant effort.

It seems rather strange that Oro Valley does not know on routine basis what it costs for the programs it operates. It is the programs that create the need for the spending. How can one analyze a budget request within this information?

What was thought to be a simple request for information to Chief Sharp and Town Manager Caton to get information by program turned out to be a big deal. It was such a big deal that Town Manager Caton declined to do the research until he was directed to do so. This could only happen if were brought before council. So it was.

In December, Council Member Zinkin prepared a powerpoint presentation for council. He attempted to present it at a council meeting.

Mayor Hiremath declined to let Zinkin present it.  (You can contact Council Member Zinkin to obtain a copy of the presentation.)

Hiremath did allow Zinkin to talk about what Zinkin had deduced from Zinkin's own analysis of information that came from public safety reports to council.

Zinkin, speaking from the document, asserted that the town is overspending on the public safety budget by almost $473,000.

According to Mayor Hiremath, Zinkin and Garner will have their request answered as part of the discussion of the 2015 budget.
The Town Of Oro Valley has created a web page for the 2015-16 budget.  It contains links to various documents of which you might be interested. It also has a "5 Questions in 5 Minutes" survey for you to complete. The survey is available through February 8.

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