Council sets a baseline for police spending - The Explorer: Pima Pinal

Council sets a baseline for police spending

Tentatively, police jobs saved

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Posted: Tuesday, April 28, 2009 11:00 pm | Updated: 1:35 pm, Mon Apr 18, 2011.

A contentious item continued from a previous Oro Valley Town Council meeting was resolved Monday.

The council voted unanimously to set a baseline for the police department's budget that likely will result in the preservation of six officers' jobs in the 2010 fiscal year.

Building on a revised budget proposal from the police department and a financial review that Councilman Bill Garner, resident John Musolf and town officials conducted, the plan cuts roughly 14 percent from the public safety spending plan.

The proposal provides the police roughly $11 million in fiscal 2010.

The changes would cut operations and maintenance costs across the police spending plan in lieu of eliminating police officer jobs. Other savings would come from transfers of money into the town general fund, and combining duplicated efforts like building maintenance, information technologies and motor pool.

Monday's vote does not finalize the police department budget. The council would still be allowed to revise the proposal before approving a tentative budget by the third Monday in July.

The council can vote on a final budget at anytime during the 2010 fiscal year and amend it by a majority vote.

The police budget approval came after an April 22 meeting fraught with confusion.

That meeting was first scheduled as a study session — where elected officials examine issues but don't vote — but a slew of last-minute additions to the agenda left many in the audience and on the dais puzzled.

Changes and additions came in at 4:45 p.m., minutes shy of the 5:30 p.m. April 21 deadline.

State laws mandate that changes to posted agendas be made at least 24 hours before meeting start times.

Most of the confusion came with Mayor Paul Loomis' executive decision to change the meeting from the originally scheduled non-voting study session to a special session.

"I changed the study session to a special session to allow us to vote," Loomis said.

Loomis wanted support from the council to direct town lawyers to rewrite meeting rules to allow the council limited voting power at study sessions. The mayor said he wanted the authority to call for a vote at study sessions for the council to give instruction to town staffers. The intention was not to vote on matters of policy.

"The challenge is to make the assumptions that the majority of the council wants to go in a specific direction," Loomis said in an interview last week.

Some council members opposed the plan, characterizing the proposal as an attempt to force votes without sufficient public notice.

"This is a giant step backward," Councilwoman Salette Latas said.

Loomis cited a recent council study session where, believing the council agreed with him, he directed staffers to proceed on contract awards for a new police substation under construction at Oro Valley Marketplace.

The following day, some council members sent the mayor e-mails expressing their opposition to the contracts.

Ultimately, the council moved on to other business without a vote on the proposal.

New parks and recreation fees

The council also voted on April 27 to change the fee structure for the town's summer camp programs.

The move increases fees for the camps from $105 per week to $160 for town residents.

Non-residents would have to pay higher fees, perhaps as much as $270 per week.

The town has not distinguished between residents and non-residents in previous years.

"I'm very sensitive to the fact that we're laying people off (in town government) and then turning around and using taxpayer money to subsidize child care for people who have jobs," Councilwoman Latas said.

Council members had requested that town Parks and Recreation Director Ainsley Legner provide a comparison of other municipalities' summer camp fees, and how much each costs.

Oro Valley's camps last year recovered about 38 percent of expenses, costing taxpayers about $157,000.

The revised fees would recover an estimated 60 percent of expenses, costing taxpayers about $100,000.

Other towns in the region recover less for their summer camp programs than Oro Valley does. Marana last year recovered about 22 percent of costs, while Sahuarita about 23 percent.

Councilwoman Paula Abbott cast the only vote in opposition to the fee changes.

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