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Pima County workers may no longer need to get coronavirus vaccines

The Tucson agenda

Pima County workers may no longer need to get coronavirus vaccines

Developers in Oro Valley may be forced to pay more for projects, plus more in local gov't meetings this week

  • Stop. A new state law will put an end to Pima County workers being required to get the coronavirus vaccine, as well as drop a requirement that unvaccinated government staffers pay higher insurance premiums.
    Jernej Furman/FlickrStop. A new state law will put an end to Pima County workers being required to get the coronavirus vaccine, as well as drop a requirement that unvaccinated government staffers pay higher insurance premiums.

Pima County's requirement that government workers be vaccinated against COVID-19 is coming to an end, at the behest of the state Legislature.

Gov. Doug Ducey signed into law a prohibition on local governments mandating coronavirus vaccines as a condition of employment.

The law takes effect Sept. 24. Pima County will also stop charging unvaccinated employees an additional $45 per-pay-period premiums. Unvaccinated workers had to pay $293 per month more than vaccinated employees. 

Supervisors will also discuss how to create prosperity and end poverty – y'know, a short meeting.

The board specifically has been asked to decide whether to form (deeep breath) the Regional Prosperity Task Force to Address Poverty, Improve Opportunity, and Create Community Wealth.

OK, more snark: Wouldn't this be called the Pima County Board of Supervisors?

I get it. They want to put a bunch of people in a room and come up with ways to improve the region's standard of living, as part of the End Poverty Now campaign.

The idea is to come up with strategies and tactics to address economic problems experienced by so many across Pima County.

Pima County Administrator Jan Lesher provided examples about how to convert policy into action:

Policy: Integrate affordable and multifamily housing options within middle to higher income neighborhoods and areas planned for future growth.
Strategic element: Research shows that the neighborhood you grow up in has a significant impact on your future wealth and well-being, and Pima County has lower rates of upward mobility compared to other regions across the nation. Deconcentrating poverty, reducing segregation, and increasing social connectedness, improves opportunity and provides lasting family and community benefit.

Tactical element: Provides housing to those unable to afford.

Sure. Why not? I'm not sure why you need A and B to get to C but fine. Go get them.

The county also has an inside baseball agenda item that's kind of interesting. The staff and the board want to work more closely together on the budget process.

The board would establish a fund balance policy and get regular updated projections about the where the budget will land at the end of the fiscal year. How much will be left over.

Also, the board will provide staff with strategic direction to be accounted for at the beginning of the budget process.

I can hear this conversation in my head...

Board member: "Why is the staff being so obstinate about my priorities. I'm the one who is elected but the staff keeps telling me what I can't do. That's not how it's supposed to work!"

Staffer: "Well, you only came up with your neat idea 11 minutes before the end of the budget process and suddenly I have to shoehorn $11 million into the numbers somewhere. Now a dozen division heads are going to hate me when I tell them to tear up their budgets,  because you just figured out homeless people need homes."

Supervisor Steve Christy, ever the ballot-box watchdog, will ask how the county Elections Division will address the disparity between Democrats and Republicans working at election centers.

Elsewhere, the Marana Town Council will vote on a notice to the public about their plans to impose new impact fees on new developments to pay for water, sewer, streets and park services.

The fees were last adjusted in 2017 and the town has long intended to change impact fees every five years based on evolving land-use assumptions.

The proposed fees are $2,529.63 for each single family home and $8 per square foot to $8,700 per square foot for non-residential development depending on jobs created.

On Nov. 1, the council will hold a public hearing on the proposal ahead of a vote on Dec. 6.

The Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors is set to hire a consultant to review employee pay scales.

The board will vote on hiring Public Sector Consultants, Inc.,  for $77,500 to conduct a six-month study that will look at how jobs are classified and compensation study.

Public sector employees in a professional civil service system are paid based on the salary range within a job classification. It's like the military, where a rank is a pay grade and an E-5 with 10 years experience makes this much and an O-3 (captain or lieutenant in the navy) with five years makes that much.

It's a way to make sure the pay scale is fair, based on the market value of the work done and not who knows whom, who owes what to whomever.

In a weird bit of accounting, the Oro Valley Town Council will vote on a loan from the general fund to the water fund and it all starts in Washington, D.C.

The town received $15 million in coronavirus relief money from the American Rescue Plan approved in February 2021. Of that amount, $5.38 million is still sitting in the utterly discretionary town general fund.

The idea is to move that money to the water utility fund to  pay for capital projects. The water fund, paid for by water bills generating revenues that can only be used for water the water department. The water department will then pay back the general fund at $1.5 percent interest.

These loans, I seem to remember, typically flow the other way. General funds can borrow from enterprise funds when tax revenues fall like they did in the late 2000's  early 2010s.

American Rescue Plan money can be used to fund programs that suffered losses during the coronavirus pandemic.

How does water use qualify for that? Well, businesses tend to use more water and are charged more for it, than residential units. A business slow down would lead to a shortfall in water revenues.

Those ARPA dollars are find their way all over the Tucson region.

One school board meeting this week will see the Tanque Verde Unified School District Governing Board vote on approval of a set of 50 strategic goals for the upcoming school year.

They fall under five categories: Student achievement, financial accountability, community engagement, school culture and high-quality professionalism.

The goals range from the vague (continue to implement grades 7-8 math) to more specific ideas like increasing help for professionals seeking advanced degrees.

The board is also expected to sign off on sending a letter to the Arizona Legislature, urging lawmakers to get a move on over-riding the state's education spending limit in 2023.

Last year, the Legislature went right up to the wire as schools braced for massive cuts if they couldn't find the votes to approve the override.

Gotta like the get up and go, but voters don't know who the 2023 Legislature will be as the election is still six weeks away.

The Tucson Unified School District Governing Board will meet for the second week in a row and are using the opportunity basically to get updates from the staff on a trio of initiatives.

The district received $3.1 million through the Pima Early Education Program Scholarships program, so they can take part in the county's plan to offer pre-school to kids around the Tucson area.

Now that they have the money, the board will discuss how to best deploy it to make the program work. They don't have specifics to go on or hard policies to approve. They are just getting a Powerpoint and having a conversation.

The board will also get brought up to speed on the district's virtual learning programs. There's the Tucson Unified Virtual Academy for grades K-5 and Catalina Online Learning Experience for grades 6-12.

Maybe you are like me and wondering if the virtual learning experience soured during the pandemic when kids stayed home, learned on line and did a whole bunch of falling behind.

Perhaps it's like the tech bubble. It didn't put an end to Internet start ups. It just forced entrepreneurs to rethink their business model.

Finally, the district will discuss technology upgrades, in a broader sense.

An example of the district's tech moves include migrating to the fancy, newfangled cloud computing option that's only been available for 10 years.

The district is also doing emergency backup planning and is continuing to get after providing each district student technology with their 1:1 student device initiative.

Some of the money for these upgrades will also come out of federal coronavirus relief funds.

Blake Morlock is an award-winning columnist, who worked in daily journalism for nearly 25 years and is the former communications director for the Pima County Democratic Party.

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