The Oro Valley Town Council held a six-hour meeting on May 20, making decisions to expand funding for two community organizations, cutting part of the police department's take-home vehicle budget, and agreeing to hire volunteer drivers for the town transit system.
Numerous budget items were on the agenda, of which the council covered about two-thirds. The remaining items are scheduled to be dispatched at the Wednesday, May 27 meeting.
Atop the list of budget subjects was the issue of police department policy on take-home vehicles.
Deputy Chief Larry Stevens told the council the policy costs $122,000 annually.
The department has 102 vehicles in all, 68 of which fall under the take-home policy. Stevens said the policy is in place so officers can dispatch from home in the event of an emergency.
Councilman Barry Gillaspie asked the council to approve a 25 percent cost reduction to the program. He suggested the chief and his team could determine how to implement the savings.
"I think it's justifiable in letting them find the leeway to do this," Gillaspie said.
Councilwoman Paula Abbott disagreed. She suggested the police should determine a feasible amount to reduce spending.
"I don't feel comfortable arbitrarily setting an arbitrary number," Abbott said.
The council approved the 25 percent reduction 5-2, with Abbott and Councilman Al Kunisch opposed.
Community group funding
The town annually gives money to outside agencies such as charities and other non-profits.
Councilman K.C. Carter asked to have the disbursement to medical research group Critical Path Institute — C-Path — increased to $25,000. A council subcommittee had recommended giving the group nothing in the fiscal 2010 year. Last year the group was given $25,000.
"I thought that their application was the weakest of all the ones that we got," Councilwoman Salette Latas said.
Latas and Councilman Bill Garner sat on the committee on community funding.
Garner also didn't want the town to give any money to C-Path.
"I still don't see any value," Garner said. "If you want to donate, knock yourself out."
Carter also requested that the council give additional funding to Tucson Regional Economic Opportunities.
Garner and Latas recommended the group receive $24,000, less than half of last year's disbursement. Carter asked that sum be increased to $40,000.
Councilman Gillaspie took issue with the added funding, questioning the responsiveness of the group and its knowledge of the coveted biomedical research firms the town has courted in the past.
"I have to ask myself, what are we getting for the money?" Gillaspie said.
The council voted 4-3 in favor of the added funding for C-Path and TREO. Garner, Gillaspie and Latas voted against the move.
The new funding total for all outside groups is $277,717. Last year the town gave $487,154.
All the budget items voted on are subject to change during subsequent budget discussions and the final budget approval, likely to transpire in June.
Coyote Run to seek volunteer drivers
The council also voted to allow Coyote Run, the town's transit system, to employ volunteer drivers.
Coyote Run has lost some drivers in recent months, and has been unable to fill positions because the council enacted a hiring freeze late in 2008.
The council approved the measure unanimously.
Fliers given extra air time
A non-budget item the council voted on was the issue of radio-controlled model airplane flights.
The Sonoran Desert Flyers, a group of model airplane enthusiasts, last August lobbied the town to permit model plane flight in the Naranja Town Site.
The town agreed to allow electric plane flight in the park from 6 a.m. to noon. The group asked to allow flight to sundown.
Because only electric planes are permitted, noise disturbances are minimal.
Group president Jim Hilgeford told the council he and other members questioned residents near the park about the noise level.
"Most of them didn't know we were there," Hilgeford said.
The council unanimously approved the extended hours.
Council to revisit budget revenues
The Oro Valley Town Council plans to meet on Wednesday, May 27 to continue conversation on budget matters held over from last week's marathon meeting.
Still on the docket are discussions about employee compensation and benefits, to include possible reduction in force, salary reductions, employee furloughs, early retirements, and reduced employer contributions to health insurance.
The council also plans to review the policy on a townwide-hiring freeze.
And the governing board is discussing "town revenue enhancement options and alternatives," according to its agenda.
That discussion continues from previous council study sessions, and examines "what kind of revenue generators we can look at going forward," said communications administrator Mary Davis. "We can't just solve the problem short-term." With Oro Valley's revenue stagnating or declining from existing sources, "they're talking about everything," Davis said.
Reorganization of Oro Valley's development services activities is also being debated.
With growth at a near standstill in Oro Valley, town leaders have considered combining building safety, development review and planning and zoning into one department. If that happens, as many as eight jobs would be eliminated, saving up to $600,000 in salaries and benefits.
Oro Valley Town Council
When: 6 p.m., Wednesday, May 27
Where: 11000 N. La Cañada Drive