Oro Valley residents filled the council chambers Wednesday night to watch the town council decide the future of its golf courses and community center operations.

Oro Valley council members voted 4-3 Wednesday night to fund improvements to the town-owned golf courses and community center on a pay-as-you-go basis out of the Community Center Fund.

During the Nov. 20 special council meeting, Mayor Joe Winfield proposed a plan to complete improvements and irrigation repairs on the 18-hole Conquistador course by 2021, complete improvements and irrigation repairs on the 18-hole Cañada course by 2022, and schedule improvements to the community center and Overlook restaurant for 2023.

His plan was backed by council members Melanie Barrett, Joyce Jones-Ivey and Josh Nicolson, who said it was a conservative spending policy that doesn’t borrow money to spend on the facilities. Barrett and Winfield previously commented that 20 percent of Oro Valley’s sales tax goes into the Community Center Fund, which should be enough.

Council members Bill Rodman, Rhonda Piña and Steve Solomon voted against Winfield’s plan, saying it will delay necessary improvements and only hurt the financial success of golf operations.

Before the decision, the council listened to two different recommendations from town staff for how to fund the improvements. 

At the Nov. 6 council meeting, Town Manager Mary Jacobs and staff recommended a funding plan that mixed inter-fund loans, bonding and pay-as-you-go in order to get all improvements accomplished within two years from now.

At that time, staff predicted that a solely pay-as-you-go funding system would delay any improvements until 2025, at least. The seven-member council was split on whether to choose the staff’s plan or the pay-as-you-go plan that Winfield supported, so they tabled the discussion for two weeks.

At the Nov. 20 meeting, Jacobs presented a revised recommendation that included delaying the start of course improvements for one year and funding the work using a pay-as-you-go plan for the majority of the timeline. Their new plan anticipated a need for a $600,000 loan from the General Fund that could be repaid at the beginning of the following fiscal year.  

“Since that [Nov. 6] meeting, staff have further analyzed the time table and determined that there is not enough time for all of those steps to occur,” Jacobs wrote in a memo to the council. “This will allow time for a full evaluation, planning, and coordination with the selected successful golf course operator prior to soliciting a construction firm.”

Staff kept their recommendation to fund the community center improvements using a tax-exempt bond.

As the majority of council seemed to side with Winfield’s plan, council members Rodman, Piña and Solomon expressed frustration over the outcome. They claimed pay-as-you-go was more a philosophical choice than a financial one, because they believe the town already has the necessary funds to complete the improvements now rather than later down the line.

More details will be in the Nov. 27 edition of The Explorer and Marana News.

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