On the Nov. 4 ballot, we suggest Oro Valley voters approve the issuance of $48.6 million in general obligation bonds for the construction of a public park on the Naranja Townsite property.
The park’s master plan is the result of hundreds of hours of discussion, and it has the chance to become a real jewel in the midst of Oro Valley. This is truly a multi-generational park, as advertised, with something for everyone, including open space and natural desert protection, and visual buffering from nearby homes. This park would be without rival in the Northwest, and a significant improvement from the existing, now-idle quarry.
Bond issue opponents, on signs and elsewhere, argue against the bonds as too expensive for property owners. Their argument is fundamentally financial, and we all must acknowledge this time of raw economic nerves. We understand the money concern, and we respect people’s right to express it.
And the opponents are correct; $48.6 million, the accompanying millions in debt service, and the ongoing expense of operating the park, add up to a lot of money. It is imperative that government financial decision-makers use all their resources to minimize the bonds’ impact on property owners, including an effort toward retiring the bonds as inexpensively and quickly as possible.
Parks don’t pay for themselves, either. Oro Valley is pledging revenues from its bed tax, as well as user fees, to pay the projected $1.2 million a year to operate and maintain the Naranja Townsite Park. Members of the business community have expressed concern that user fee estimates are too high. Our hope is that they are realistic.
Estimates of property valuation growth must be rational, too. Given what’s happening in the housing market, values may not rise as quickly as first thought, which means tax collections won’t leap ahead. Town officials must be honest, then, in explaining to the public what’s happening with bond repayment, debt service, bed tax and user fee revenue, and operating expenses.
Here’s a fair question — is it worth millions to Oro Valley property owners and residents to build a park at Naranja Townsite?
Yes, we suggest.
Homeowners immediately adjacent to a park, including those in the Copper Creek development, should experience a strengthening of their property values. Or, to put it another way, when they go to sell their homes, it will help that this impressive facility is within walking distance for children.
The property value effect is rippling, with the largest effect on homes close by. Still, it can be argued, a park on the centrally located townsite could enhance the value of more distant homes. Parks are demanded by modern Americans, particularly those with kids who want to live where life is best. Life is really good in Oro Valley, and this park would take it further.
We might suggest Oro Valley’s growing biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries would have an easier time recruiting talent when, on a tour of the community, families see this park. That’s why it’s appropriate for major industrial property owners to pay money for it. Their employees benefit directly, and their recruitment efforts are bolstered.
One other point.
Over the last 100 years, Americans have approved the issuance of government bonds, to be paid for with property tax revenue over time, to build public facilities, such as schools, libraries and parks. These are often investments in the future; property owners taxing themselves now to help the generations to come. Our forebears sacrificed so that we had better schools, improved fire protection, or safer water. With these park bonds, we are being asked to pay it forward.
Regardless of your position, please flip over the printed ballot to the Naranja Townsite bond question. It’s the last question on the ballot.