Town could lay off 26 workers - The Explorer: Pima Pinal

Town could lay off 26 workers

Move could help stave off $5.2M shortfall in FY 2010

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Posted: Friday, March 6, 2009 12:00 am | Updated: 1:23 pm, Mon Apr 18, 2011.

With an anticipated $5.2-million revenue shortfall in the coming fiscal year, Oro Valley’s leaders could resort to firing town employees as a way to close the budget gap.

On Wednesday, March 4, the town council plans to discuss the possible layoffs of 26 employees, a move that would save an estimated $1.5 million.

The town has about 380 employees.

But the layoffs would almost certainly result in a slower and less-responsive town government, according to Town Manager David Andrews.

“I think definitely there will be an impact to services,” Andrews said.

In a memo describing the proposed cuts, Andrews outlined numerous areas where residents would experience longer waits and a generally lower level of service from town government.

The town has about $14.5 million in reserves, but Andrews said the town likely would not dip into the savings to pay the employees salaries in fiscal 2010.

“Would using the cash reserves be just postponing the inevitable?” Andrews asked.

Under state law and town policies, Oro Valley must maintain a reserve equal to at least 25 percent of the general fund, the part of the budget that pays for day-to-day town operations.

The town also could lay off as many as six police officers whose pay is covered by federal grants set to expire in coming months.

“If we were to lose six positions, our focus (for service cuts) would be the community action team,” said Oro Valley Police Chief Danny Sharp.

The community action team (CAT) focuses much of its resources on crime prevention and drug-related arrests.

“I’m a firm believer that you can work proactively,” Sharp said. “Our calls have actually gone down, which means we’re out there doing  things proactively.”

Last September, working on a tip from a Canyon Del Oro High School student, CAT members tracked down a Tucson man suspected of selling heroin to students.

Driving unmarked police cars, officers blocked in the man’s car at a shopping center parking lot and moved in to arrest him.

The man attempted to flee by ramming the police cars with his vehicle, nearly running down an officer in the process, at which point police shot and killed him.

If the department does lay off any officers, the community action team could be disbanded but its members retained.

Officers with less seniority likely would be eliminated if the department doesn’t get the federal grants.

Under the strain of similar budget cuts, the Tucson Police Department and the Pima County Sheriff’s Department have eliminated programs that put officers in schools.

Oro Valley intends to keep officers in schools.

“The SROs (School Resource Officers), to me, are integral to our crime prevention philosophy,” Sharp said.

Oro Valley, like communities across the country, in recent months has been deluged with a flood of dour financial news.

Last December, Oro Valley’s leaders learned that the town had lost more than $230,000 in investment funds after the investment bank Lehman Brothers collapsed last summer.

Town leaders also learned that the town would get less money than expected from the state government.

State shared revenue, money the state collects from income taxes and later distributes back to local governments, could decline by more than $1 million in fiscal 2010.

Highway funds are also expected to drop by $1 million in the coming fiscal year, which starts July 1.

Sales taxes are another area where town leaders anticipate dramatic declines.

When the fiscal 2009 budget was adopted in July, town leaders estimated sales tax receipts of nearly $19 million.

But by year’s end on June 30, sales taxes could bring in $12.6 million.

If that estimate holds, sales tax revenue will have fallen to levels not seen since 2006, when the town collected $12.8 million.

In the coming budget year, sales tax receipts could bring in slightly more, about $13.3 million, according to town budget estimates.

Sales taxes drew $17.3 million in fiscal 2007 and more than $18 million in fiscal 2008.

The town has also suffered from a dearth of residential building in the past year.

At budget time last year, town leaders estimated they would issue 250 permits for new home construction and generate $1.1 million.

A budget review from January estimated the actual number of permits issued by the end of the fiscal year may be as low as 100 and generate $629,000.

The council may also decide the fate of the 2 percent utility sales tax, a levy that applies to residents’ and businesses’ gas, water and electric bills.

Town financial officials estimate the tax could draw as much as $1.5 million a year.

The tax was adopted in 2006 and is scheduled to expire April 1.

The council meets Wednesday, at 6 p.m., at Oro Valley Town Hall, 11000 N. La Cañada Drive.

SERVICE CUTS

Oro Valley Town Manager David Andrews said residents could experience slower service in numerous areas if the town fires 26 employees.

Those areas included:

• Slower re-shelving of library books

• Delayed business license processing

• Slower magistrate court dispensation

• Reduction of transit services

• Elimination of proactive sign code enforcement

• Reduced capacity to expedite reviews of development plans

• Delays in fulfilling public information requests

• General delays to citizen inquires

TOWN STAFF

The following shows the town worker-to-resident ratios since fiscal 2000.

FY 2000

27,350 Population

221 Employees

8 Employees per 1,000 residents

FY 2001

29,700 Population

259 Employees

8.7 Employees per 1,000 residents

FY 2002

34,050 Population

285 Employees

8.4 Employees per 1,000 residents

FY 2003

37,260 Population

296 Employees

7.9 Employees per 1,000 residents

FY 2004

37,700 Population

304 Employees

8 Employees per 1,000 residents

FY 2005

39,310 Population

314 Employees

8 Employees per 1,000 residents

FY 2006

41,072 Population

332 Employees

8.1 Employees per 1,000 residents

FY 2007

42,304 Population

358 Employees

8.5 Employees per 1,000 residents

FY 2008

44,180 Population

376 Employees

8.5 Employees per 1,000 residents

FY 2009

44,843 Population

380 Employees

8.5 Employees per 1,000 residents

FISCAL 2009 SPENDING

$203.1 million Total fiscal 2009 budget

$52.5 million Total operating budget in fiscal 2009

$26.1 million Total personnel costs in fiscal 2009

49.7 percent of operating budget dedicated to personnel expenses

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