Oro Valley votes on $151 million budget, South Tucson seeks 'home rule'

Each June, local government meetings have packed agendas as officials push to get their budgets completed by the beginning of the next fiscal year in July. This week, we’ve got a second installment of the Tucson Agenda, columnist Blake Morlock’s regular roundup of what area governments are up to. Volume 1 is here: Hot stuff: Tucson & Pima County gov’t set to discuss heat measures

The Oro Valley Town Council will vote to approve its $151 million tentative budget, locking in spending limits for fiscal year 2025.

The spending plan is big on capital investments but small on new operational programs, as it is expected to end the year with a $57 million surplus across multiple funds.

The town will hire no additional employees under the budget. Employees stand to get a 4 percent raise if the budget is approved.

Headlining major investments, the town will spend $23 million on the Northwest Recharge, Recovery and Delivery System. The NWRRDS (Google it and it comes back “do you mean Oro Valley NERDS?”) is a joint operation between Oro Valley, Marana and Metro Water to store and reuse Colorado River water in the future.

Other big-ticket purchases include $4 million for Vistoso Trails Nature Preserve preservation, $3.2 million in pavement preservation, $3 million for town court expansion and $2.8 million for vehicle replacements.

Town Council members will also vote on an increase in water rates.

The new charges will amount to a 5 percent increase on all water line sizes and a 10 percent increase on commodity charges, which are much less than the rate assigned to the pipe diameter.

If approved, Oro Valley will have cheaper residential rates than Marana, Tucson and Metro Water but big users will be charged more than Marana and Metro.

A notice to increase water rates was approved by the council in March.

IO who? How much?

The Marana Town Council has a light week, which gives me a little space to explain something quietly vexing local governments across Arizona.

The council will vote Tuesday on its obligations under the Arizona State Public Safety Personnel Retirement System.

pension system for retired police and firefighters got into trouble
during the Great Recession and required a complete reworking, which was approved
by voters in 2016.

More than half of its promised funding was
basically an IOU. Very few, if any, communities’ pensions had enough money on hand to pay their obligations.

State law requires towns like Marana to accept the liabilities owed to the system and set up plans to get whole.

now, the town has $56 million in owed future benefits and just $43 million in assets.  That’s 75 percent. Not bad. Not great. The
goal is to be at 100 percent, of course, but 80 percent is considered

Back in the ’00s, the state pension board tried to get real
aggressive with investments. They provided sweet returns, allowing
communities to promise more. Then the bottom fell out of the market and
money disappeared.

After that, the board took a more
conservative approach aiming for lower but more stable returns. Probably smart. No longer will the fund be a rising tide, lifting all pension plans.

Places like Marana have to swim out themselves. 

The council will also vote on their plan about how to use U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s grants. The Community Development Block Grant program gives just over $200,000.

Marana’s population broke 50,000, which means it can go straight to HUD for funding, and not have to work through Pima County.

So the town is finishing up its first round of planning and funding. CDBG, are lump sums of money given to communities for projects local governments feel are necessary. It’s a bottom-up approach to federal funding but requires a bunch of i’s dotted and hoops jumped.

Council members will vote Tuesday on whether to expand its paid family leave time to one month of full pay. The change will cost the county $25,000.

Mines and home rule

Santa Cruz County supervisors will vote on submitting a letter that includes the county’s recommendations on the Hermosa Mine and on whether to accept a wage plan for workers.

They just include zero information about either in their agenda, so residents interested in either just have to wait to see what the board decides.

Editor Dylan Smith doesn’t like it when I get sarcastic in ways that readers not know I’m being sarcastic so allow me to state clearly that I’m slobbering with sarcasm when I write “That’s OK. The Hermosa Mine is of limited public interest. People really don’t have an opinion on it. I’m sure this issue that has the whole county on edge really isn’t that important to anyone.”

And no one really cares about giving public sector workers raises without justification. They diiiig that.

The South Tucson City Council will discuss the approval of it’s 2024-25 general fund and talk about putting a home rule amendment on the ballot.

Home rule allows the cities to establish their own spending limits, apart from what the state Constitution allows.

In Nogales, the City Council will vote to approve a new contract with Waste Management to continue to run a transfer station and raise the “tipping fee” to $61 per ton up from $59 per ton.

A transfer station is where municipal solid waste is collected and sorted prior to heading to a landfill.