One of the issues facing the Oro Valley Town Council as it navigates a way through this year’s budget is the matter of pay raises.
Town Manager David Andrews recommends giving all town employees a 1.5 percent cost-of-living increase and fully funding a 4 percent merit raise.
The cost-of-living adjustment would cost $313,000, and the merit raises another $384,000.
Taken together, town staff in fiscal 2009 could see up to 5.5 percent in raises, a half-percent more than this year.
Last year, the council adopted a budget that did not include merit-pay increases or the police step-pay plan, but did give a 5 percent cost-of-living raise to all town employees.
This year, police union negotiators want the council to approve a 2.5 percent cost-of-living increase in addition to the step plan Andrews recommends.
The step plan gives most police officers and support staffers a 4- to 5-percent raise annually.
The department has 103 officers and 39 support workers. The total budget for the department is estimated at $13.6 million in fiscal 2009, a $720,000 increase.
“There’s been no information from the town manager that we don’t deserve that cost-of-living adjustment,” said Andrew “Buddy” Novak, an Oro Valley police detective and union representative.
He said the additional raises would cost the town roughly another $214,000 for the year.
Town Manager Andrews, however, said a region-wide economic downturn does not permit the town to offer more than the 1.5 percent he’s recommended.
“The basis of my recommendation is affordability,” Andrews said. “This has been a really tough budget year.”
His recommended fiscal 2009 budget, currently before the town council, includes $26.3 million for personnel costs. That represents a nearly 6 percent increase.
For the town to fund the 2.5 percent increase police union officials want, Andrews said it would have to make cuts in other departments. He identified three areas to cut to accommodate the extra pay.
One possibility includes cutting 2.5 percent from operations and maintenance budgets.
A second option involves redirecting a portion of the town’s bed tax proceeds to cover the raises. The bed tax is expected to net $1.6 million in fiscal 2009, which begins July 1.
A third option would require extending or raising the town’s utility tax, which stands at 2 percent. The tax is scheduled to expire in April 2009.
Included in Andrews’ proposed budget is $48 million for construction of a 214-acre park at the Naranja Town Site. The matter will go before voters in November.
“They’ve earmarked this ahead of the employees’ need,” Novak said.
But the town manager disagrees with the police union’s comparison, explaining that any money the town would spend on the park hinges on voter approval.
“Naranja Town Site is really budgeted as a contingency,” Andrews said.
Furthermore, Andrews said, any money spent on park construction would come from a secondary property tax, not existing funds.
The town council has four more budget study sessions planned this month. Novak said the issue of salaries would be discussed at one of those meetings, though no date for these talks has been set.
|Comparing police officers' pay
Detective (SWAT and others)