Ruben Villa, former finance director of South Tucson, describes the reason for a secondary property tax by the city to cover the cost of servicing a debt, which resulted from a shooting in the 1980s, and brought the city to the verge of disincorporation. (A South Tucson officer shot a Tucson police officer in the spine.) The payment is now more than $600,000 a year, the debt having been refinanced twice.
In a discussion with the Arizona Daily Star about his upcoming retirement as Tucson city manager, Richard Miranda points out that taxpayers are on the hook for about $1 billion in unfunded pension liabilities and that in the next fiscal year alone the city will pay $83.4 million for its pensions. The most worrisome being police and fire, which are both funded under 50 percent.
Surely that raises the question of whether a town the size of Oro Valley with a superior and proportionately large police department should have regular audits of the police department along with the other town departments. It also raises the question of whether the police department with such a huge potential financial liability should be placed under a professional manager (i.e., the city manager).
Most Oro Valley residents get their town council information from The Explorer Newspaper, many of whom like me are disgusted with the petty squabbling that seems to be taking place about minor and major issues. We just witnessed the attempted recall of one of our town council members with the only apparent concrete evidence being that he questioned spending and called for an audit of the police department. (Other innuendos were more than hinted at, but there was no substantiation.) Quite frankly, it would have been impossible to make a well-informed decision on whether to sign the recall petition.
My question is whether the residents of Oro Valley can be assured that our promises to today’s city employees are not going to result in huge unfunded pension liabilities in the future, and that we are sufficiently protecting our police as far as personal injury and liability.