The election season has begun, and the field is ripe for incomplete, out of context, and incorrect information.
Geri Ottoboni's letter in last week's Explorer actually reinforces how important my experience is. Here are the facts.
Oro Valley is a different town than it was 12 years ago – the world is different today as well. Our population has almost doubled, yet we have greater reserves than we did in 1998.
We now have significant revenue from retail sales taxes. We have significantly improved our infrastructure, roads, parks, water services, and much more. We now have the safest community in Arizona. Half the people here today were not here in 1998, and don't remember what Oro Valley like in 1998. Our spending has been consistent with our services.
The European trip consisted of non-stop meetings with over 25 companies in support of regional economic development, along with Tucson Mayor Walkup, UA President Shelton, and TREO in Switzerland and Germany. We met all day with senior management of Roche, and created a strong town / corporate partnership. Roche has since accelerated their Oro Valley expansion plans, and has designated Oro Valley as their Center of Excellence for Tissue Diagnostics. This trip used funds from the existing economic development 2007 budget.
The sales tax incentives to shopping centers and the hotel are existing contracts, and I believe that until the court resolves the pending case, we are bound by these contracts. The incentive funds are now in escrow until the court case is resolved.
I am in full support of sustainability. The proposed volunteer commission lacked objectives and definition. I am continuing to work on this with town staff and other council members to create a sustainability technical advisory committee or task force that will be appropriately defined, have clear direction, and meet the needs of the town.
The proposed economic development commission was debated by the council. Its duties were not clearly defined, and there was not adequate justification to create a commission. The council serves this function for the town. TREO is a professional economic development organization that does our marketing to bring businesses into Oro Valley.
We had cut and cut the budget; we only needed $500,000 to avoid employee layoffs and reductions in benefits. Our contingency fund is still higher than policy requires. During my tenure, we have increased our reserve funds policy to the highest it's ever been, which is now at 25 percent. Most towns only have less, typically 10 percent. We remain in strong fiscal health, with solid reserves.
Mr. Andrews requested that he be allowed to resign rather that have his contract not renewed. Contrary to statements by others, I never demanded his resignation. I suggested to him, in the presence of the town attorney, that he bring a proposal to the council meeting. His resignation was accepted by a majority of the council.
In these economic times, we no longer have the revenues that we had in the past. We need to find ways to either pay for the level of service that we currently enjoy, or we need to reduce or eliminate services. We need to look at all possible sources of revenue to support the needs of the town. A property tax will require voter approval. If the council decides to put the question on the ballot, and if the question is properly presented, I could possibly support it. Raising our utility tax from 2 percent to 4 percent would put us in alignment with other southern Arizona towns. Our General Plan's Vision For The Future includes a town government that "ensures the long-term financial stability of the Town."
Again, we need to pay for the services we enjoy, or reduce or eliminate them.
There is no substitute for experience, especially when it is combined with a deep understanding of the complex issues facing our town, and dedication to the best interests of Oro Valley.
Paul Loomis is the mayor of Oro Valley.