Town sees 14 layoffs, 21 voluntary separations - The Explorer: Pima Pinal

Town sees 14 layoffs, 21 voluntary separations

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Posted: Tuesday, April 13, 2010 11:00 pm | Updated: 8:08 am, Thu Mar 24, 2011.

The Town of Marana anticipates 14 worker layoffs to balance the fiscal year 2010-'11 general fund budget.

Another 21 employees have opted to take the town's separation incentive plan, allowing them to receive an incentive payment if they voluntarily leave town employment by Dec. 31, the town said in an April 7 release. Four of those positions are scheduled to be refilled. Net savings are more than $400,000 from the voluntary separation for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

Those reductions mean Marana would have approximately 300 full-time equivalent positions in the new fiscal year. It had a budgeted 362 FTEs two years ago.

Job reductions are heaviest in parks and recreation, with 16.5 full-time equivalent positions to be eliminated (see related story). Other proposed reductions are non-uniformed members of the police department (seven total FTEs, four of them currently vacant), engineering (5.8 FTEs), public services, the airport, operations and maintenance, the manager's office and capital improvements. Employees' last days of work vary by program. Some of the savings come from unfilled vacancies.

Town Manager Gilbert Davidson was scheduled to make a formal budget recommendation to the town council at its Tuesday, April 13 meeting. Total general fund reductions next fiscal year would reach $4.7 million under Davidson's proposal. Non-personnel costs would be cut $2.9 million, and personnel costs reduced by $1.79 million.

"The choices we must make with this budget do impact individual lives — those of some of our employees and those of some of our residents," Davidson acknowledges.

There are no plans in the proposal for mandatory employee furloughs nor pay cuts in the new fiscal year "unless the legislature transfers extra costs to cities and counties in efforts to balance the state budget," the release said.

Davidson is recommending a balanced budget that "emphasizes the community's core values while not increasing taxes." Those core values are safety, cleanliness and health.

Marana has experienced a two-year, 17 percent drop in general fund revenues, from $34.3 million in fiscal 2008-'09 to a projected $28.66 million in fiscal 2010-'11. The town reduced its general fund expenditures by $7.2 million during the current fiscal year, "with no impacts on services," Davidson said. Most of those savings came from non-personnel reductions, including delaying the purchase of vehicles, drops in funding to outside agencies and cuts in commodity purchases, professional services, special events, travel and training, memberships and subscriptions and uniform allowances. Additionally, the town reduced personnel expenditures by eliminating nearly 18 vacant positions.

"These past two years have been difficult," the town manager continued. "While we have had to make some tough choices and get very clear on our priorities, the town is financially healthy, with sufficient reserves to retain our bond rating status."

 

Parks, recreation taking biggest hit in new budget

 

With "no easy choices remaining," Marana is making significant reductions in what it spends on recreation, to include cuts in funding for summer camps and after-school offerings, reduced public swimming hours, privatized swim lessons, and changes in senior center operations.

"We want to make sure we have facilities available for our citizens to use," Mayor Ed Honea told a small gathering of parks and recreation supporters on Wednesday. "That doesn't necessarily mean we're going to have programs at those facilities. We don't have the money to do both."

Marana does plan to offer "some recreation programs in the parks," parks and recreation director Tom Ellis said, "but we won't be able to handle the numbers we have in the past."

A budget proposal presented to the Marana Town Council on Tuesday calls for the elimination of 16.5 full-time equivalent positions in the town's parks and recreation department. It is the largest single departmental reduction of employees as Marana tries to balance its fiscal 2010-'11 budget with less revenue.

Marana is changing its parks and recreation's "business model, from one that develops and delivers programs to one that provides facilities for programs and partners with other entities to develop and deliver programs," according to a town budget document.

The swimming pool will be open for public swimming from noon to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Lap swimming and water aerobics would occur from noon to 1. Open swimming hours are 1 to 5 p.m.

"We'll contract with an outside group to provide swim lessons in the morning," Ellis said. "The fee will be a little bit higher, but their fees are very reasonable."

Estimated savings at the pool are $84,156, to include the reduced hours and changes in swim lesson staffing done previously by lifeguards. Swim team use is being negotiated.

Marana is ending a $10,400 space lease for senior programs, as well as a $25,398 lease for a "recreation annex" in Continental Ranch. It is moving senior program and special interest recreation classes now held in Continental Ranch to a town-owned facility being renovated at the Ina Road Marana Operations Center.

"I'm hoping to have it worked out with very little interruption," Ellis said.

Senior center hours "are going to stay pretty constant," with hours at the North Marana senior center on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., and at the Ina Road facility from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday and Friday. "We've focused on services on the days seniors said they wanted the most," said Deb Thalasitis, assistant town manager.

Anticipated savings on senior center hours is $54,515 a year.

Marana is turning to other institutions, as well as the private sector, to offer programming. Volunteers are being asked to help, too. Last week, several stepped up.

"We are here to help," said Bev Showalter, representing the County Line Riders of Catalina, an equestrian group of approximately 200 members that provides help with access as well as trail maintenance near Dove Mountain. "We're just a bunch of equestrians that care. Even though we don't live here, we would like to partner for the greater good, for everybody."

"We'll be taking you up on that," Honea said.

Sharon Harrington of A.C.M.E. Studio said her organization would donate art supplies. The Northwest YMCA has indicated it would help with summer programs, Ellis said. Volunteers have already begun assisting at the senior center. The Foothills Optimist Club is providing scholarships for kids who can't afford to go swimming. "People are stepping forward," Honea said.

Parents expressed concern about the loss of after-school programs. Marana Unified School District has given "every indication they're going to step up their program to take some numbers in," Ellis said. "We're a lot stronger community when we work together."

In the Southwest, "most recreational after-school programs are strongly subsidized," Ellis said. "When the money's flowing everything's great. When the money tightens up, everything's difficult."

"A lot of these programs, when they were originated, there was nothing else," Councilwoman Patti Comerford said. Now, parents have options for their children, though Comerford recognized they may cost more money in difficult times.

"I have grandkids, I understand," Honea said. "The only other option was to go out for a tax, and our council said 'no.'"

The council made a decision early on not to pursue higher taxes, and Honea understands why. "We chose not to tax our citizens any more," he said.

The mayor said the March 9 defeat of a secondary property tax override within the Marana Unified School District represents "one of the worst defeats for an override in the history of Pima County." He saw it as "a pretty big mandate from the people. They have said 'we just can't pay any more taxes right now.'"

Marana's charge, then is to "provide core services. That's basically what happened in this budget.

"There are painful parts of the budget," Honea said. "There are programs that will go away, there are people that will not be employed."

"It's important to understand that every single penny has been looked at in the town," Comerford said. "Staff is to be commended."

Honea expressed some doubt about whether the May 18 1 percent sales tax question would prevail. "I question whether those taxes will pass, to be very honest with you," he said.

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