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Marana Town Manager Terry Rozema pushed a proposed half-cent sales tax to fund a new recreation center and aquatic facility during an Aug. 25 meeting hosted by the Marana Chamber of Commerce.

The Marana Town Council is scheduled to vote on whether to approve the tax at its Oct. 19 meeting.

In the run-up to the meeting, Rozema and other town officials are informing the public about the benefits of the sales tax.

Rozema said the proposed half-cent sales tax increase will accommodate the growing population in Marana with new town employees and a 55,000-square-foot rec center. The community and aquatic center would be built on the northwest corner of Bill Gaudette Drive and Marana Main Street on land that the Town already owns near the Marana Road exit on Interstate 10. This addition would further build out the Marana Municipal Complex, which currently houses a fire station, health center, police station, court, post office and more.

“Some people are questioning where we’re putting it, and we chose the location we did for several reasons,” Rozema said during an interview last month. “Number one, we’re not in the business of competing with the private sector. And northern Marana has zero recreational facilities like this, but southern and eastern Marana have LA Fitness and Anytime Fitness and Crossfit. And the second thing is that we’re trying to build out the downtown and municipal complex. And as a community facility, we believe the traffic it can receive will spur more economic activity to Marana Main.” 

The “multi-generational” center would host facilities for all ages, from children through seniors, as well as the special needs population. Should the center be built, Rozema said the existing recreation center at nearby Ora Mae Harn District Park may be converted into exclusively a senior center. Ora Mae Harn park also houses an existing community pool. However, Marana recreation supervisor Kevin Goodrich has listed challenges with the current community pool, such as it being nearly 50 years old, ADA accessibility, small size and lack of adequate shallows for children.

The new sales tax would potentially go into effect as soon as January 2022, should the Town Council approve it in October. Marana has previously used a temporary sales tax increase to fund other municipal projects, including the new police headquarters at the municipal complex, as well as the Twin Peaks overpass. 

At the end of seven years, the Town Council could end the tax, or shift it to fund another municipal project. 

This new tax would increase the town’s sales tax from 2% to 2.5%, matching nearby Oro Valley’s sales tax rate. That’s in addition to a 5.6% state sales tax and a half-cent countywide sales tax that funds the Regional Transportation Authority. But Rozema estimated that about two-thirds of the tax would be paid by visitors who come to the town to shop rather than residents.

According to the Arizona Commerce Authority, Marana’s population has grown from 3,000 to 51,000 since 1970. That’s a 4,000% population increase, making it one of the fastest growing towns in the Tucson region.

Rozema said while the population is sharply rising, the town staff, including police officers, is declining in comparison.

A 2.5% sales tax would add about $6.2 million annually to the Town of Marana’s budget, which would fund the proposed $40 million recreation and aquatic center over a period of seven years.

The community center proposal came after a survey of thousands of Marana residents who showed a high priority for a recreational center. Rozema said in his presentation that 77% of Marana residents in the survey wanted a rec center, along with an aquatic center.

The center is expected to take about seven years to finish under this new tax increase. 

The Town has already sent a notice to the state government to change the tax code, although that does not obligate the Town Council to approve the tax. 

The Town will continue to hold public meetings until the Town Council votes on Oct. 19.

Rozema said the Council is still debating on a few key points. If the tax is raised, the Council will need to choose if they are going to make it a temporary change or extend the tax indefinitely into the future to pay for other community projects. The council also has to decide whether the tax will affect large retail items, such as cars.

The next public meeting will take place on Thursday, Sept. 9, at Dove Mountain CSTEM K-8 from 6 to 7 p.m.

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