Oro Valley’s Elephant
Regarding June 12 story: “Oro Valley makes budget cuts for new police”: The Explorer’s Kathleen Kunz reporting on the town’s fiscal year 2019-20 budget got the facts right, but missed the elephant in the room.
First the facts: The $111 million budget was essentially a “no growth” budget with no new town staff additions, but did raise all staff pay grades and provides for salary increases. The surprise was that Chief Sharp after his budget presentation never mentioned the need for additional officers, admitted that no net new officers had been added under the previous administration and that he felt town safety was eroding. Sharp then requested eight additional officers, four this year and four next year.
Mayor Winfield absorbed this new information and approved the addition of four new officers plus four new vehicles.
The elephant lurking in the budget reviews was the fact that Oro Valley revenues show minimal growth over the next five years while the costs of town services and public safety continue to increase. In addition, alarming longer term town liabilities were revealed during the process.
We learned that the public safety pension has an unfunded liability of $22.8 million, and the town staff pension is underfunded by over $19 million. In addition, manager Jacobs in her budget presentation identified millions more needed to repair and update unaddressed declining town facilities. Growing pension liabilities and town facility decay if not addressed will likely require additional taxes. These problems are so big the proposed annexation will not solve them.
My recommendation is that the town staff and council conduct a review of all current programs, prioritize real resident needs and find better ways to deliver the core town services and public safety residents require.
—Jack Stinnett, Oro Valley
Regarding June 12 letter “Property Problem”: I take great exception to Bill Wissler’s assertion in the Explorer that the job of the Town Council is to preserve property values. That is not their job at all. Their job is to provide good governance. And if they decide that good governance would be to close the golf course, then so be it. Maintaining property values is the job of your homeowners association.
As to relying on home equity to boost your savings, you are at the mercy of the economy. I lived in Houston in the 1980s. My home cost $135,000 in 1981. I sold it for $101,000 when I moved overseas in 1990, had to pay $6,000 at closing, and lost my 10 percent down payment. This was not the fault of the Houston City Council, but the result of the oil price crash in 1986. Thousands of people were laid off and home prices collapsed over the next several years.
—Jeffrey Bryant, Oro Valley
Regarding June 5 letter “What about seniors?”: I respectfully disagree in part with Janis Johnson’s opinion.
Oro Valley Parks and Recreation has done a great job providing a diversity of activities for all town citizens. Ms. Johnson cites tennis and archery as not being activities in which seniors participate. As a senior myself, I am not a tennis player but when I visit the activity center in the cooler parts of the day, I note many, if not most, are seniors.
Regarding archery, the same is true. All ages and abilities participate in archery from grand kids to seniors. Best of all, the archery facility is completely self supporting, generating $15,000 to $20,000 annually to support its presence. The money generated is in excess of the funds spent to support the facility and actually produce funding for other parks programs. Many of its users are seniors but most of us are not as photogenic as are our children and grandchildren.
So, I would like to encourage the Town Council to continue to support the great variety of programs our Parks and Recreation provides. Those programs are a great resource for all Oro Valley residents.
—Gerald Perry, Oro Valley
Regarding May 29 story “Real estate appraisal: Home values drop if Oro Valley closes golf”: You were quoted in the recent Explorer regarding the appraisal commissioned by Cañada Hills Community Association as saying “it isn’t a fair comparison to Oro Valley’s situation.” Your team has had many months to evaluate the continuing financial losses of the golf courses. You and the council were elected to correct this financial drain. I would have expected a more developed response to this article.
It is a laughable “appraisal” quoting “anonymous real estate developers, builders’ appraisers and brokers.” I think any reasonable person could have come up with the 4 to 18 percent (or zero to 40) number after a few hours of searching the internet. While this is important to the 400 or so properties located on the greens of the golf course, the closure issue must also be looked at from the 17, 408 other homeowners in Oro Valley that are paying for this financial drain in their taxes.
Does Oro Valley consider deeding the 36 holes of golf property to the associated HOA and let them make the best of it? I am sure that if they were faced with the continuing losses and future of golf and the direct cost to HOA members that they would quickly make a decision to fix the problem.
Golf is a sport in decline, golf courses all over the country are closing, and the impact on homeowners is irreversible. There will be fewer courses in Oro Valley’s future. The upside, for every course that closes the remaining golf properties values may go up. The longer that Oro Valley delays the inevitable, the more costs and uncertainty there is for the taxpayers and golf property owners.
Eight months into the new council and no plan. Oro Valley needs to act. The taxpayers, all 17,800, not just the property owners affected by being on or close to a golf course, expect the council to act. Inaction leads to property value decline because buyers want to know what the future of the golf courses will be.
The future of golf courses is poor, each year 150 to 180 courses close. Oro Valley must act.
—Bob Cuthbertson, Oro Valley
It seems facts have a way of bringing out anger in our community. Here are some more facts.
The first significant action taken by Mayor Winfield and Vice Mayor Barrett was to get rid of the experienced members of the Planning and Zoning Commission. The nominating committee made up of the then chair, Councilmember Rodman and planning and zoning administrator Bayer Vella (all experienced P&Z veterans) recommended three of the Winfield and Barrett hand-picked candidates and one remaining experienced member. That would have left four members with experience and three newbies—a reasonable mix. Petulant Barrett pitched a fit because one of her pets wasn’t chosen to serve. Winfield and the come along votes sided with her and a fourth inexperienced person was appointed thus giving them a majority of members to coach and do their bidding. Here is a result of that.
On May 7 an applicant came before the commission with a rezoning and conditional use application. The rezoning was approved and the conditional use was denied. Without going into detail the comments and statements made by new members were bizarre and demonstrated a clear bias against the applicant’s use request. In fact, one new member read a two page statement that he had prepared days in advance of the hearing. In other words he had made up his mind that he was going to vote no before the case was ever heard. That’s lawsuit conduct. Another newly appointed member admitted that she had never read the advance material that is so carefully prepared by the town staff to help prepare the commission. Not only is that truly sad, but it is a direct reflection on those who appointed her.
As a result, complaints were filed not only by the applicant but from members of the audience who had no stake in the matter. To correct the issue, two unscheduled meetings had to be scheduled; one to reconsider the matters, and another to schedule the new hearing.
At the June 4 meeting, the commission voted to not reconsider the approved rezoning but to reconsider the use permit. No problems here. July 9 was proposed to schedule the rehearing of the case. When asked to vote on that date, one of the newly appointed members, a Barrett pick, stated she did not understand the question. How do you not understand setting a date for a meeting?
This, my dear friends in Oro Valley, is what we are dealing with. Not only do we have elected officials who don’t know what they are doing, but they hand-picked and appointed people who totally disregard their charge as a commission member, thus tainting the objectivity and fairness of the commission.
Once again, we made a mistake on Aug. 28, 2018.
—Don Cox, Oro Valley
I have been a resident of Oro Valley, the safest, cleanest and most livable city in Arizona for 20 years. My wife and I reside on Wimbledon Way across from the 16th hole of the Conquistador course. I urge you to promote the courses, as opposed to obviously hoping that they fail so that those of you that ran on that agenda can be proven correct. Your negative discourse is most certainly not leading to increased play, which would of course be counterproductive to your cause.
One would think that your responsibility to the community as a whole would be to assure the success of the community center as well as the courses. Golf is not in most cases a highly profitable business but the venture should certainly be able to break even. This would prevent the devaluation of the homes on and around the course which would affect all of Oro Valley from a financial standpoint. Yes, golf courses need constant maintenance, anyone that has ever picked up a club knows that. Should you invest in the irrigation system the improvement to the course will be dynamic. An efficient irrigation system is the only thing keeping the courses from moving to excellent from very good. Word travels fast among golfers and it would pay huge benefits. I implore those of you that have not done so to take a positive approach towards a great community asset. Who knows, if it is successful you may just be elected again.
—Michael J. Bankowski, Oro Valley
There have been comments made that the Town should not keep the golf courses for only one golf tournament. The facts are that the El Conquistador has hosted at least 13 charitable tournaments so far this fiscal year, with nearly 50 tournaments total. Tournaments such as Grad Night Fund Raiser, Golden Retrievers and Toys for Tots, to name a few that benefit the community with needed funds to support local functions and agencies.
We encourage the town to continue the golf operations which provide funds for such activities that help the community.
—George and Sheila Lindsay, Oro Valley