Tuesday, May 2, 2017

The Watchdog Report: By Mike Zinkin

Part 1. Beware of the Town Manager's Recommended Budget (TMRB)

The TMRB for Fiscal Year 2017-18 is a 4-inch thick notebook that is very time-consuming and difficult to read. A new Council member can easily be overwhelmed by it. I will illustrate the areas (including page numbers) where one might expect to see some savings, although there are none listed. This is noteworthy because the Town Council is proposing a Secondary Property Tax to build ball fields at Naranja Park, yet this TMRB clearly shows that the money is already available. It just needs to be re-allocated.

Page ii – The budget includes the assumption that 300 Single-Family Residential building permits will be issued. Other projected developments includes 3 senior living facilities, a self storage facility, two schools, and continued restaurant, office, and retail space.

Local sales taxes are expected to climb 10% and Licensing and Permit revenues are expected to climb by 28%.

Page iii - Once again, employee raises are set for up to 4%. In dollar figures, that’s $528,000 set aside for raises. Cut the raises in half and you can build a ball field.

The budget compares the current number of employees needed (383) to the 389 employees they had in 2008, leading one to believe that they’ve shown some efficiencies by cutting six positions. However, if one compares the number of employees to 2010 (when Mayor Hiremath and his Majority-4 came into office) that budget called for 340 employees. (Page 81 of the FY 2010-11 budget.) The FY 2017-18 budget calls for 382.92 employees. That’s an increase of 43 positions! Why can’t our town government be more efficient?

Page vi - $30,000 going to the Greater Oro Valley Chamber of Commerce, $275,000 going to Visit Tucson (this is $25,000 more than the previous year, despite the fact that our Bed Tax revenues are trending lower.) What exactly are we getting for our $275,000 contribution? They have also “planned for the continued annual contribution of $75,000” to the Children’s Museum and $21,400 to the Southern Arizona Arts & Cultural Alliance (SACCA). This totals over $400,000. Why can’t some of this be allocated for another ball field instead?

The top of this page has a request for an additional sergeant to be the OVPD Public Information Officer to serve as the liaison between the Police Department, the media, and the public. We already have a very capable Communications Administrator for the Town. Why do we need an additional Public Information Officer? Isn't one enough? Page vi also shows that the Town is already planning to build two lit multi-use fields at Naranja without a property tax as well as other capital improvements.

Page 3 - The General Fund Revenue projection was off by $1.3 million. They projected $34,468,353 while the actual figure turned out to be $33,141,353. I bring this to your attention as another example of the Town’s recurring inability to properly forecast.

Page 5 – This shows how the Bed Tax fund saw a decrease of $69,211 in its balance. So why are we increasing our contribution to Visit Tucson? They are supposed to be promoting tourism to Oro Valley, yet our Bed Tax fund (hotel rooms) has decreased.

Page 8 – The Community Center Fund which started with $1.2 million when the fund was created in 2014 will end FY 17/18 with just $297.00. I wonder if this was part of their often touted “five-year plan.”

Page 135 – This shows that Troon is estimating $1,822,941 in losses for FY 17/18.

Page 251 - Shows that $75,000 is coming from the Bed Tax Fund for "Community Center Tennis Court Improvements."

Page 252 - $50,000 is set aside from the Community Center Fund for "Cart Path Improvements."

Looking at Pages 251-252 above, there is more funding for Community Center improvements coming from the Bed Tax Fund than coming from the Community Center Fund. This begs the question…What happened to the "special Community Center fund" that was set up to handle ALL the Community Center expenses? No monies were supposed to come from any other funds to support the Community Center.

Page 253 – $500,000 will be spent for a traffic light in front of the Community Center. This is noteworthy because back when the Sheraton (and then the Hilton) owned this building, they had over 400 members and no need for a traffic signal. Yet somehow with less than 250 current members, we suddenly need a traffic signal at this intersection.

CLICK HERE to see the Town Manager's Recommended Budget

Part 2 of this report will be published on Wednesday.