June 22, 2005 - While there are some decisions to be made before a final budget is adopted, the Oro Valley council has capped the town's spending for 2005-06 at $99 million.
At its June 15 meeting, the council voted unanimously to adopt the tentative budget and set the expenditure limit for the upcoming fiscal year. The council is scheduled to approve a final budget at a July 20 meeting.
There are some decisions to be made between now and that meeting that could affect how much of the town's cash reserves are doled out or whether other items are cut from the budget, but after the June 15 vote, the town cannot spend more than was approved.
The council has not yet made a decision about whether to change the Oro Valley public safety worker's step plan, increasing the raise between each step from 4 percent to 5 percent. The change has been requested by the Oro Valley Police Officer's Association as part of this year's contract negotiation.
Town staff estimates the cost of making the step plan change at an additional $301,000 this year. The budget now includes money allocated to fund a 4 percent increase to eligible police officers.
Acting upon a town staff recommendation, the council added $6 million to the total expenditures at the June 15 meeting. The money is to be allocated for the municipal service center project, and the $6 million is a staff estimate on what it will cost to acquire land and develop the site.
In January, a Pima County Superior Court judge granted the town possession of 24 acres of land in Rancho Vistoso it has been trying to acquire for a variety of town uses, which include moving the public works yard from the Calle Concordia site, moving the water utility from the town hall campus and building a police training center and an evidence storage unit on the site.
The town council unanimously approved a resolution Sept. 15 to acquire, either through purchase or condemnation, land needed to move the public works yard and other town facilities to a bigger location and has been pursuing condemnation through the courts.
Town staff said the town had outgrown its current location at 680 W. Calle Concordia, and the town had been sued by neighbors of the yard who said business there was too loud and dirty to be in a residential neighborhood, however, the town won that lawsuit last year.
The site, which lies northeast of Ventana Medical Systems in Rancho Vistoso Neighborhood 3, off east Rancho Vistoso Boulevard, was under development by Monterey Homes, now Meritage Homes.
The town is in negotiations with Meritage Homes over a price for the site, and Town Attorney Melinda Garrahan said the town and the company are working toward a settlement.
At the June 15 meeting, the council also approved an additional $51,000 in funding for the Greater Oro Valley Arts Council to pay for increases in staff salaries and benefits and also fund additional public relations and marketing efforts, bringing the total town contribution to GOVAC to $186,000. GOVAC is calling the additional funding an "investment" in its future as it makes a push this year to grow. The arts council told the town it is asking for half of the funds it needs for the new positions and intends to make the other half of the investment itself.
Whether GOVAC should get the additional funding it is requesting was the subject of debate at one of the council budget work sessions, and the arts council was asked to provide further explanation about how it intends to make its share of the money.
The move to approve the funding did not have the full support of the council, however, even after the additional materials were provided. The motion to included the additional funding for GOVAC passed 4 to 2, with Councilwoman Helen Dankwerth abstaining from voting to avoid any conflict of interest. Her husband, Alan Dankwerth, is the GOVAC treasurer. Mayor Paul Loomis and Councilman Kenneth "K.C." Carter voted against the extra funding. Carter said that while he supports the arts council the budget is tight this year and the council is already dipping into contingency reserves to fund additional items that were not recommended by the town manager.
"There's a time and a place," he said of the arts council's request.
During the series of budget work sessions, the council recommended adding more than $340,000 in items to the tentative budget that was recommended by Town Manager Chuck Sweet. Carter said that adding the GOVAC request would push that number to $400,000 and that there were still other possible expenditures to be approved. Because the council set the budget cap, any additional spending will need to come out of the contingency fund or be found through cutting somewhere else.
During the work sessions, the council had the same debate it had last year over whether to spend money set aside in the contingency fund. Some council members argued that the fund should be used only in emergencies or for one-time expenditures, and other council members said any money exceeding the 20 percent the council's policies recommend can be spent as the council sees fit. Finance Director David Andrews said 20 percent of expenditures in this year's budget is $4.6 million and the town has $8.6 million in the contingency fund, well over the policy requirement.
The budget includes:
€ Adding the equivalent of nearly 14 new positions. Two and a half of those positions are in the public works department: a part-time driver, an on-call driver and a part-time dispatcher for Coyote Run. Nearly five and a half positions are for the library. Those positions are library associates and pages, which are needed, according to library staff, because of the anticipated completion of the library this fall. Ten thousand additional square feet will be added to the existing 15,000 square feet, and a separate children's section and teen zone will be opened in the new space. Five positions are being added in administration: an assistant town manager, an assistant prosecutor, a file clerk/victim's rights coordinator, a civil attorney and a paralegal.
The police department, which requested 17.5 new positions this year, will get one of those requests fulfilled. During budget work sessions, it was recommended by some council members that the department get its highest-priority position funded this year, a forensic technician and lead information technology technician. This position is needed, according to Police Chief Danny Sharp, primarily because the department has no full-time employee helping to keep up with all of its technology issues.
€ More than $19 million to fund road improvements and 2004 Pima County bond projects including the library expansion and Steam Pump Ranch and Honeybee Village land acquisition. Eight and a half million dollars will fund various water utility projects, including the reclaimed water system and CAP water rights acquisition.
€ Eight hundred and fifty thousand dollars to fund other capital improvement projects, including 11 new cars for the police department, a truck for the parks department and a replacement vehicle for the Coyote Run paratransit service. CIP items also include spending $350,000 on accounting and human resources software.
€ A 2.3 percent cost of living raise for all town employees and funding to give merit raises of up to 4 percent for those employees who are eligible.
General Plan revisions approved
The council approved revisions of the General Plan update 6 to 1, with Councilwoman Paula Abbott voting against the move. The council also voted to adopt the revised Strategic Implementation Plan, a set of actions that implement the policies of the General Plan, 5 to 2, with Loomis and Abbott opposed.
The plan will now go to the voters for ratification, said Community Development Director Brent Sinclair.
Sinclair said there will likely be informational meetings held but there is no further official action that needs to be taken regarding the plan.
Town Clerk Kathi Culvelier said there will be a resolution to call an election on the agenda at the July 20 council meeting.
Sinclair said the town has been on track to hold the election Nov. 8.
Abbott opposed the plan because she believes the public was not given enough time to respond to the addition of wording in the plan that states that the town will pursue annexation of state land located north and east of Sun City Vistoso and to work with the State Land Department to create and adopt a conceptual development plan for that area.
The topic came up in one of the public hearings, held in Sun City, where residents raised concern about how that area would be treated in the future. The section was added to the plan by the planning and zoning committee after that discussion.
Abbott said she believes the town's plans had been to preserve the natural desert area and she believes many residents in Sun City want to see it stay open space.
"On one hand we're saying we want a preserve, and on the other hand we want a conceptual plan to develop it," she said. But Loomis said the town has always had the ability to pursue annexation of the area and the main difference now is that the town is deciding to work with the State Land Department, which owns the land, on a plan. By law, if the area is left as open space, the owner has the right to develop it with one unit per acre.
The land use map for the area has not changed as a result of the revisions and remains rural low density, with a significant resource area overlay, meaning it should be developed at the lowest density of the zoning designation.
In a letter from Catherine Balzano, of the Arizona State Land Department, it is recommended that no land uses are designated for the area in the General Plan.
"Oro Valley's planning area (for the General Plan update) includes the subject Trust land, but I must advise you that ASLD neither participated in the development of the plan nor agreed to the land uses that are currently being proposed and represented on the land use map. At this time, ASLD would prefer that there be no land uses designated on the trust land. This change would eliminate the creation of community expectation toward future use (or non-use) of the property," she wrote.
Garrahan said the state land department is in the business of making money on the land and not interested in keeping it as open space.
Gillaspie said that is why he believes it is a good idea to include annexation of it into Oro Valley as part of the plan, adding that the town's development policies are "more explicit, rigorous and demanding" than other areas that could end up controlling the land in the future if Oro Valley does not annex the land. By annexing and working with the ASLD to develop it, he believes the town can find ways to use it that are agreeable to everyone involved.
"We want to work with others and do the best we can for this property," he said.
The first General Plan update went down in defeat after almost 60 percent of voters said "no" to the plan, Nov. 4, 2003.
Last fall, the council appointed a new committee to address why the General Plan failed and to get the document back to the public for a vote in 2005.
The General Plan Update Revision Committee was made up of 11 Oro Valley representatives: a person appointment by each council member, one representative from the development community and one from the Northern Pima County Chamber of Commerce, and two representatives of OV Beyond 2004, a political action committee that opposed the failed plan. EXPLORER Publisher Melanie Larson was appointed to the committee by the chamber.
The committee was tasked to consider making a number of changes that addressed specific parts of the plan, identified by the council. That list was compiled using feedback gathered by the town through surveys after the first plan failed along with a list of problem areas given to the town by members of groups such as OV Beyond 2004.
Problems cited indicated that the specificity and flexibility of the plan was in question and was tied to a lack of trust in the town's government, and that development policies were not acceptable, particularly in regard to the use of mixed-use neighborhoods, high density housing, growth control and open space preservation. There also was concern about future taxes and a financial model projecting future revenues, and there was disagreement about the processes of adopting and amending the plan.
After a series of committee meetings, there was a 60-day review of the document, during which time state, federal and surrounding jurisdictions could submit to the town feedback regarding the plan. The revisions next went to the Planning and Zoning Commission, where two public hearings were held. The council held a study session to review all changes and comments before adopting the revisions at its meeting.
Changes to the plan include removing all references to property taxes included in the plan and returning to using the word "shall" instead of "may." The committee decided that "shall" gave the document more power and that the General Plan is a document that the town council now, and councils in the future, should try to closely follow, as it is approved by the voters as a vision for the future of their community.
Using the term "mixed-use neighborhood" throughout the General Plan was another of the contested areas of the plan.
Revision committee member Bill Adler, who lead OV Beyond 2004 in opposition to the plan, said MUNs were opposed because they were not defined in the original plan.
Mayor Paul Loomis voted against adoption of the Strategic Implementation Plan revisions because, he said, while the term "mixed-use neighborhood" was taken out of the General Plan, the SIP includes a land use called "complementary use district," which he believes is the same as an MUN. He said including that use "detracts" from the plan.
"It gives us an additional target on something that was used during the last election," he said. Loomis wanted that land use removed from the plan.
Abbott agreed, saying that in her mind MUN was still in the plan.
"Neighbors were opposed to the concept," she said. "That concept is still in here."
But Gillaspie said he supported the revision committee's decision, adding that it is a tool for the town to use in the future and is not in the General Plan but in the implementation document. Parish agreed, and he said he believes what got the town in trouble with the failed General Plan was all of the changes that were made by the council after the committees had finished the update.
A General Plan is required to be in place by Arizona law, and the law requires town zoning codes to be in conformance with a General Plan.
Cities and towns must update General Plans as a result of state-enacted Growing Smarter legislation in 1998 and 2000 that established a set of new requirements for the preparation and adoptions of new plans.
According to the Department of Comm-erce, the state entity charged with keeping tabs on General Plans, a General Plan is general in nature; provides a statement of community goals and development policies; designates the general distribution, location and extent of land use; determines general location and extent of existing and proposed circulation systems; provides an overall guide for community growth and development; provides the basic framework for future development; and considers economic development in tune with the social well-being and health of the community.