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A new approach to community input on budget process

Photo of Town Manager Greg Caton with Town Seal

Although the 2015-16 fiscal year doesn’t begin until July 1, 2015, Town of Oro Valley staff has already begun the budget process. Many months of preparation go into this document, which serves not only as a guideline for spending, but also as: a policy document, the budget indicates what services the Town will provide during the next year and spells out the level of services and reasons for their provision.

January 21, 2015

An operations guide, the budget indicates how departments and funds are organized to provide services to the community.

A financial plan, it summarizes the cost to the taxpayers for current and approved service levels and how they will be funded.

A communications device, the budget is designed to be user-friendly with summary information in text, charts, tables and graphs, and includes definitions of financial budget terms for additional clarity.

During my tenure as Town Manager since 2012, the Town has tackled budget season in a proactive, inclusive manner, securing the involvement of Town Council, staff and community members so that we can gather input from their unique perspectives.

In October and November, Town Council provided their input on budget priorities as the Town began the process of updating its Strategic Plan. With Council’s vision and priorities in mind, the Town Manager’s budget development team conducted an employee budget forum to educate staff on the process and seek their input.

In previous years, we also held a community forum with the same goal in mind: to educate and seek input; however, this lightly-attended forum indicated that we were not reaching enough residents and we needed to adjust our approach.

This year, in lieu of a public forum held in Council Chambers, the Town will publish a budget information page on the website for residents to peruse at their convenience, and we will launch an online opportunity for residents to give direct input on what they feel are priorities for the Town. The online questionnaire, 5 Questions in 5 Minutes, will be launched January 26, and will be open through February 8. In this questionnaire, participants will have an opportunity to rank potential capital improvement project categories and indicate priority levels on Town programs and services.

Our hope is that this online tool will be a greatly-improved method of gathering community input for the FY 2015-16 budget process.

Although the online questionnaire closes February 8, the budget information page will remain online, and residents will have the opportunity to attend two public hearings on the FY 2015-16 budget, scheduled for May 6 and May 20, at 6 p.m. in Council Chambers.

In addition to public input, the budget team will also meet with Town of Oro Valley department directors to better understand the needs and priorities of staff before developing and presenting a proposed budget to Town Council on April 1. Final adoption of the budget is ultimately Council’s authority. As such, careful consideration is given to the development of this document, ensuring that it is guided by the Town’s Strategic Plan and voter-approved General Plan.

Oro Valley’s approach to budget development has been very successful, and I am confident that our addition of an online public outreach tool will further enhance the process and final product.

For the last five consecutive years, Oro Valley has received the Distinguished Budget Award from the Government Finance Officers Association. This award reflects the commitment of the Town to meeting the highest principles of governmental budgeting.

Our success is a reflection not only of the tremendous efforts of Town Council and staff, but also of the thoughtful input we receive from community members. So please be sure to log onto www.orovalleyaz.gov January 26 through February 8, participate in the 5 Questions in 5 Minutes, and make sure your voice is heard as we embark on the FY 2015-16 budget process.

Community input on the Town’s budget may also be submitted at any time through our Constituent Services online portal at www.orovalleyaz.gov/town/departments/constituent-services or by calling at 229-4711.

By Town Manager Greg Caton - Explorer Newspaper, January 21, 2015