The Town of Oro Valley’s fiscal year is coming to a close next Saturday, June 30, and with it, some significant accomplishments achieved for the community. Major capital projects were completed on-time and under budget, including Lambert Lane widening and safety improvements, two additional multi-sport fields and lighting at Naranja Park and several Water Utility well upgrades.
A few other highlights from the past year include the La Cañada traffic signal at the community center; pedestrian and traffic safety improvements at Naranja Park; multiple drainage improvement projects throughout town; implementation of an energy efficiency project at the community center; the nearly complete Tangerine Road widening project (in partnership with the Regional Transportation Authority, Pima County and Town of Marana); and several special events that the Oro Valley community enjoys, such as the free concert series, the July 4th Celebration and Fireworks at Naranja Park and the Easter Eggstravaganza at the Oro Valley Community Center.
Throughout the year, your town staff has worked hard to ensure we remain good stewards of your tax payer dollars. In addition, strong sales tax collections and fiscally responsible spending will see another year-end surplus of about $1.3 million, which will be deposited in the town’s capital fund earmarked for future planned projects.
With Town Council’s approval of the fiscal year 18/19 budget earlier this month, the community can once again look forward to exciting projects and initiatives that will improve services and facilities for our residents in the coming fiscal year, while being assured of a well-managed and fiscally-strong town government.
As I worked with the town’s budget team to develop my first budget since becoming town manager last September, my main priority has been to incorporate the same fiscal sustainability principles consistently incorporated into previous Oro Valley budgets and expenditure plans. While the new fiscal year’s $143 million budget is an 11 percent increase over the previous fiscal year, it is important to note that the increase is largely attributed to the surge in outside funding from the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) for the planned La Cholla widening project, and notable increases in town “savings accounts,” which are fund balances held in reserve for specific capital projects, but included in the overall town budget.
The town retains a very healthy 28.5 percent general fund reserve balance, a fund that has never dipped below the Town Council policy of 25 percent minimum set ten years ago. The capital fund has been broadened this year, providing dedicated and predictable capacity to pay for future maintenance, facility improvements and other community infrastructure. Similar to years past, the town will finance some of the planned improvements through a tax exempt municipal bond—a tool that allows local government to construct infrastructure now in today’s dollars without any tax increases, ultimately paying a much lower interest rate than the projected rate of construction cost increases. This financing mechanism also assures financial participation by future residents—not just by current residents—by utilizing their sales taxes, impact fees and customer water payments to make debt service payments.
Probably one of the most talked-about plans is the future investment in the Oro Valley Community Center and golf courses. After three years of operation and a fund that is projected to break even this fiscal year, the town has developed a strategy to renovate and reconfigure functions at the community center to broaden programming and expand access of the facility to residents. Food and beverage operations will be relocated downstairs, where a “fast casual” venue will be created to enable diners and facility users to take advantage of beautiful views and great weather on an expanded outdoor patio that will feature a small stage, awnings and new landscaping.
Wellness and fitness areas will be expanded, with an additional classroom to accommodate the very popular group fitness classes and other recreational programs. A community room will provide places for clubs and informal groups to meet, socialize and play games. The two 18-hole golf courses will have irrigation systems replaced, substantial turf reduction and other minor improvements, which will result in significant water and operational savings.
With a total price tag of $6 million over three fiscal years, these investments will lead to the community center fund generating a positive surplus of nearly $500,000 within a year following completion. Architectural design will begin shortly, and construction is expected to begin in the spring of 2019, with completion of the building renovations by the end of 2019. Golf course renovations will be made in the summers of 2019 and 2020.
Also included in next fiscal year’s budget are continued investments in recreational facilities, with the complete renovation of the ballfields at James D. Kriegh Park, significantly improving the quality of those fields for our adult and youth athletes. The much-loved dog park at Naranja Park will be expanded and improved for our furry friends. Residents can also expect to see a vast improvement in the online registration process for Town recreation programs with the planned upgrade of our recreation software system.
Public safety continues to be a hallmark of town services, and funds have been allocated to allow the police department to transition two officers from a federal task force back to the streets of Oro Valley. The long-awaited evidence facility and southern substation will be constructed in FY18/19, further enhancing visibility of the police department and providing the space needed to properly store and retain evidence. Also on the topic of safety, our residents in Sun City will be happy to learn that the new budget includes funding for the next section of street light repairs along Rancho Vistoso Boulevard.
With transportation infrastructure in Oro Valley the envy of the region, the upcoming budget continues to reflect the Town Council’s commitment to quality roads as well as solid transportation planning. In partnership with the RTA, the Town will start the La Cholla widening project later this summer, which will continue the four-lane parkway design from Overton to Tangerine over the next two years. The next iteration of residential and arterial streets will be resurfaced, assisted this year by Pima County through a portion of their dedicated County property tax.
Oro Valley residents can rest assured that their town government continues to be a good steward of their tax dollars, investing in our future and aligning our budget with the goals and priorities of the community we serve. It is an honor to plan and provide the services and amenities needed to maintain our outstanding quality of life, and to lead the exceptional organization that helps make Oro Valley the kind of community in which families and individuals choose to live, work and play.
Mary Jacobs is the Oro Valley Town Manager.