Wednesday, May 3, 2017

The Watchdog Report: By Mike Zinkin

Part 2. Fiscal Responsibility. It’s not in our nature.

“It’s in Our Nature” is the theme for Oro Valley. As we drive around town, we all see the banners telling us that Cuisine, Culture, Family, and Aquatics are all “In our Nature.” Will we ever see a sign telling us that Fiscal Responsibility Is In Our Nature?

We live in a town with no professional leadership. We do not have a real Town Manager; an individual who is charged with challenging the Town's Directors to come forth with budget requests that separate their needs from their wants…someone who challenges them to be efficient. Oro Valley is led by a cop and a dentist. The Town Manager's Recommended Budget (TMRB) reflects this lack of leadership.

Higher and higher
The FY 17/18 TMRB totals $123.2 million (page i). It states on this page that this is a reduction from the FY 16/17 budget. However, if you look at page i of the FY 16/17 TMRB, that budget is only $117.4 million. The FY 17/18 budget is actually $5.8 million higher than the previous year.

The Police Department request is for $17,253,417 (page 137), while last year it was $15,698,162 (page 144 of FY 16/17 TMRB). This is an increase of over $1.5 million. Of course, with a cop and a dentist in charge, this shouldn’t surprise anyone.

As noted in Part 1 of this report (published yesterday), the TMRB included up to a 4% raise for all employees (page iii). The TMRB sets aside $528,000 for this purpose. A 4% raise does not reflect reality; just ask your child's school teacher. Neither private industry nor government is offering 4% raises for its employees. Social Security raises are based on a government formula that reflects the cost of living and there has been NO social security raise for the past two years. Yet Town of Oro Valley employees have received up to 4% raises over the last 4 years. Is this fiscal responsibility?

Page 5 notes that the Bed Tax Revenues are expected to go up 3.8%. However, Page vi notes that we intend to increase our contribution to Visit Tucson from $250,000 to $275,000. This is a 10% increase. Why not tie the Visit Tucson stipend to the bed tax increases?

They will tell you that there is a contract with Visit Tucson and that there is an obligation for this increase. There is NO obligation. It is up to the Council whether or not to fund it.

More vehicles than a Jim Click dealership
In a recent Public Information Request, it was discovered that the Town currently owns 217 vehicles (passenger cars, police cars, SUV's, light trucks, heavy trucks, and vans). Why does the Information Technology department have its own van? Why does the HR department have an assigned car? Why does the Community Development and Public Works (CDPW) department need 8 SUV's, 38 light trucks, and 3 vehicles?

The OVPD has 49 SUV's, 22 patrol cars, 1 heavy truck, 9 light trucks, 10 vans, and 26 other vehicles. Page v of the TMRB calls for 6 new marked police vehicles, 3 new unmarked police vehicles, another vehicle for CDPW, and one more for parks maintenance. The CDPW department has 97.72 employees (not including transit services) and 49 vehicles (not including transit busses).

Will any of this be questioned by the Council prior to voting whether or not to pass the budget?

Perhaps someone should work overtime to lower this budget
The overtime requests in the CDPW budget for custodial and facilities (page 71), fleet maintenance (page 74), and transit (page 81) is the same for FY 17/18 as it was for FY 16/17. The OVPD has followed suit, that is, the overtime requests for FY 17/18 are the same as they were for FY 16/17 in at least 10 areas (found on pages 161-191).

Who in Town Management is directing these departments to become more efficient and to reduce overtime hours? Certainly not the cop and the dentist.

This is YOUR money and it is recklessly being spent without any vigilance or oversight.

Mike Zinkin has a Bachelor’s degree in history and government from the University of Arizona and a Master’s degree in Social and Philosophical Foundations of Education from California State University, Northridge. He was a commissioned ensign in the United States Navy Reserve in 1969. He worked as an Air Traffic Controller for 30 years. He and his wife moved to Oro Valley after retiring in 1998. Mike served on the Oro Valley Development Review Board from 2005-2009, the Board of Adjustment from 2011-2012, and the Town Council from 2012-2016. During his time on council, he was named as one of 23 Leadership Fellows for the National League of Cities University, he was a member of the National League of Cities Steering Committee for Community and Economic Development, and a member of the Arizona League of Cities Budget and Economic Development Committee.