Tuesday, May 23, 2023

This and That From The TMRB Study Sessions

No change in what we previously reported on the TMRB
The Oro Valley Town Council held 8 hours of a study session on the 2023-24 Town Manager’s Recommended Budget (TMRB). Nothing new regarding the TMRB emerged. What we previously reported stands.  However, there were a few things that we did learn from the sessions that are worth sharing.

Town considers "Winfield Special" fifth tier for water billing
The town’s water department is studying adding a fifth tier to the water billing structure. That tier would be for users, like the Winfield family, of less than 3,000 gallons of .water.  The town’s current structure, in which users are penalized for water use, will continue. Staff did not announce a timetable for this new tier.  Interestingly, the brain child of this tier was offered up some months ago by Mayor Winfield on the guise of encouraging less water use. Could it be that he just wants he wants to lower his water bill? One could reasonably question how a family of six can survive on 3,000 gallons of water a month.

Homeowner insurance may cover scams
We hope that you are never scammed. Some of the latest scams are discussed on the Oro Valley Police web site.  If you are, we learned at the special session that Homeowners insurance may cover the damage. Check your policy or ask your agent to see if you are covered.

Whether municipal golf makes a profit is a matter of accounting
There is no agreement among councilmembers or among town staff on how to determine if municipal golf is making a profit. Staff says it is but one has no idea if that interpretation includes sales tax support.  And there are differences in understanding what revenues and what costs should be charged to golf operations. For example, when town staff says that municipal golf is profitable that are not including the millions that are being spent on replacing the irrigation system, enlarging the community center parking, or making the area more challenged accessible.

Grants and outside funds play a huge role in public works funding
The town seeks federal, state or local funds for just about every road project they do.  The La Canada Bridge needs repairs so staff is seeking federal funding. Naranja Drive needs a multi-user path. Staff is seeking PAG and RTA funds for this. Much of the remaining roads program is funded by state highway funds.

Councilmembers want to measure the results of economic development efforts but…
Every council member asked how the Economic Development Department measures its results. None of them got an answer. That’s because, try as he may, Mr. Melcher, the department head, has very little to show in his three years in on the job. Much of this is because the town's target businesses, high tech and medical tech, are hard to find. So, Melcher is focusing on bringing events to town. This will bring outsiders in to use the town's retail and hotel services. Melcher will report to council on the result of one such event, the Tucson Bicycle Classic, at this Wednesday's meeting. Read our April analysis of why economic development efforts have produced limited results.

The town is getting software to help them identify those who do not register their short term rentals
The software scans the various short term rental website. The program gathers information on rentals offered in Oro Valley, summarizes the results, and develops a report of activity by the owner.  Staff will then compare that list to the list of those who have registered to determine those who have not.  Staff claims that this will be "evidence" sufficient to press forward. Here's one example of the kind of software that can do this.

Fee Payers should pay credit card fee
The town budgets a $57,000 credit card fee cost incurred when people pay fees using their credit cards. Why doesn't the town add this fee to the cost when the person is paying? This is a common practice when paying bills online to public entities.

Councilmembers "fall over backwards" to complement staff on the job staff is doing
It was difficult to listen to eight hours of a study session. Much of the session is consumed by councilmembers telling staff what a great job the town staff person is doing; and if they are addressing a supervisor, telling them what a great job their staff is doing. "Thank you for your services and the great work you do" is heard over and over again.  There's nothing wrong with that. But when you do to every one every time, the compliment becomes gratuitous. One suggestion: Mayor Winfield should thank staff for their great work at the start of every meeting. That way, the same praise does not have to be repeated ad nauseam. 
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