What field crisis?
The Mayor and Town Council have spent $145,000 to place a $17 million bond and $28 miollion property tax on the ballot Nov. 7 to solve the “critical need for youth sport fields.” Let’s see if we really have a crisis.
When I was chair of the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board in 2013, Oro Valley had only two lighted fields in Riverfront Park. They were in poor condition from continual use—a real crisis. Town staff crafted a $2.3 million project using available budget funds that built a dog park, parking lot and two large lighted soccer fields. The Naranja Park field project has been a huge success.
No new funds were budgeted for Naranja Park fields until this year’s fiscal year 17/18 funding of $1.04 million to build fields #3 and 4. Construction is underway and next spring the Town will have two more large, lighted competition fields. The four Naranja Park fields will provide an additional seven acres of youth fields beyond the two Riverfront Park fields we had in 2013. How big is seven acres? To sports fans, it’s more than six 100 yard x 53 yard high school football fields. To shoppers, it’s the size of three local Home Depot stores or six Fry’s Grocery stores. It’s big enough to have multiple youth soccer or little league football games on every field, since less space is required for youth [U6,U8,U10] soccer teams and little league football.
The combined fields at both parks will provide more field space than eight high school football fields. There is no soccer field crisis! We will have more than enough fields for Oro Valley youth to play field sports. But let’s plan for the future. My “pay as we go” recommendation is to commit $1.5 million in the Town’s fiscal year 18/19 budget to fund the same three smaller fields we would get with the $17 million bond. This will give Oro Valley nine lighted soccer fields: seven at Naranja and two at Riverfront Park.
I am voting “no” on Proposition 454. We should continue our “pay as you go” build out of Naranja Park not solve $2-3 million issue by placing a $28 million tax on Oro Valley property owners.
The only Oro Valley crisis is the lack of fiscal leadership.
Editor’s note: Jack Stinnett is associated with the Axe the Tax PAC.
Links submitted by Jack Stinnett:
- Baseball and softball facilities at James D. Kriegh Park
- Baseball fields at Arthur Pack Regional Park
During the Town’s recent open house on the Naranja Park Bond, they presented it as a $17 million bond paid back at $1.4 million per year over 20 years. You’ll struggle to find the real cost of the bond ($28 million) listed in any Town literature. And so begins another contentious bond proposal in Oro Valley.
This proposal is not just about ball fields. It is also about taxation and fiscal responsibility. For some history, in December of 2006, the Town Council enacted a two percent Utility Tax with a sunset date of April 2009. In 2009, they extended the tax and removed the sunset clause. In May 2011, they voted to increase this tax to four percent with no sunset. Whenever your utility rates go up (as they do every year) your utility taxes increase proportionately.
Fast-forward to March 2015, when the town council instituted a half-cent sales tax increase, ($2 million per year) to pay for community center and golf course expenses. When that wasn’t enough to cover it, the town council transferred $350,000 from the general fund to the community center fund, and still the fund began the fiscal year $97,000 in the hole.
Adding to the ill-fated community center purchase was a decision by a previous town council to give $23 million of taxpayer money to Vestar Corporation in return for Oro Valley Marketplace, which was promised to deliver “unique shops” and “an extraordinary shopping experience.” Nine years later, and OV Marketplace is nothing but discount chain stores surrounded by 22 empty storefronts (a 47 percent vacancy rate).
Look at your 2017 Pima County Property Tax Statement. It currently contains 14 lines of bonds and tax assessments. Do we really want another tax? Despite our property tax valuation going down by almost $2,000, our bill increased by $96.00.
Once you levy a tax, it will live on in perpetuity because the government is addicted to the additional revenue it generates. All current sitting council members ran for office with promises to “keep taxes low” and “oppose an Oro Valley property tax” but are now getting behind this $28 million property tax.
Open House chaos
I attended the town’s recent open house for Proposition 454 and find that some of the more interesting comments remain unreported. One resident, for example, described the open house as “absolute chaos.” Following the town’s formal presentation that included the failed 2008 Park Bond and the impact on taxpayers, attendees were advised to address questions to town staff at several information tables. Residents grumbled about the style as it prevented everyone from hearing all the questions and answers simultaneously.
Undeterred by the town’s instructions, a gentleman raised a question but was again directed to the finance table for answers. The cry “Maybe we all want to hear it” spurred him to continue questioning the potential bond in light of the citizens’ “pay-as-you-go” preference for park development. His second question established that the actual cost of the bond, including interest, was $28 million—not the $17 million as presented.
The assistant town manager then left the podium to compel attendees to follow the open house format. I heard “Let’s all go with him” and joined the crowd to hear “why the newer fields can’t be built on a pay-as-you-go basis.”
As residents engaged with each other, one revealed that the internet petition in support of additional little league baseball fields contained only 167 Oro Valley signatures out of 10,000. Staff concurred those petitions were not validated.
One woman questioned “Why didn’t you tell us that this was to be a 10 minute, one-sided presentation? Why couldn’t we have had a forum that asked one question at a time?”
The comments I heard lead me to believe that those who expected to have their questions answered openly had learned nothing to justify a 20 year, $28 million property tax. Many left early and felt that the meeting had indeed been chaotic.
In response to Sept. 20 letter “Fiscal Foolery”: The first thing to be noted is that Mr. Gagan has a three year history in Oro Valley. That’s hardly enough time to know where Sun City OVPD substation is located. And yet he has that audacity to state, “Oro Valley is a fine town, but poorly led and managed at a magnificently excess expense.” He goes on to say that Oro Valley is not run “ethically.” With all due respect, those are pretty strong words for a newbie.
As for ethics, the voters solved the ethics problems in the last election when they ousted three of the most ethically challenged council members we have seen in our 40-plus year history.
Gagan bases his observations, in part, on Prop 454. He states, “This decision affecting all of us was made in two weeks (minimum required by state law) without any public meetings, discussion or debate.”
The expansion of Naranja Park has been discussed for 15 years-plus. The need for additional recreation areas for our growing youth population has been identified as a need for several years. In addition, we have a large senior population who plays softball and have to play outside Oro Valley because there is not a single senior softball field in Oro Valley.
Lastly, I would point out to the newcomer Gagan, Oro Valley is on extremely sound financial footing and has been for several years as a result of the policies set forth by our elected officials. That is evidenced by the public record. It is also evidenced by the amount of taxes that are paid by Oro Valley residents to Oro Valley for the services they receive. Many people spend more on coffee annually that they do on Oro Valley taxes.
Mr. Gagan, I would suggest that you do some homework. Please attend the Community Academy that is offered by the Town to educate. The Oro Valley Police Department also provides a multi-week course to help educate citizens on how and why we have one of the lowest crime rates in the state of Arizona.
Ignorance of fact is an avoidable illness.
Questions for council
In the Sept. 20 edition of the Explorer, both Mayor Hiremath and Councilmember Solomon proudly noted how Oro Valley had $2 million in excess revenues that were directed into the general fund. While I acknowledge that the general fund balance increased by $2 million in fiscal year 16/17, I have been, and will continue to be a critic of the community center losses, something they would rather avoid addressing.
With that in mind, I have two questions to ask of Hiremath and Solomon:
1) Why wasn’t some of the surplus spent to make the Community Center ADA compliant since this is sorely needed by your disabled constituents? Is it because you already needed to use over $2.5 million of general fund monies to supplement the community center fund when the half-cent sales tax increase wasn’t meeting community center expenses as you had promised it would?
2) Why wasn’t some of the surplus spent on building Naranja Park? It seems that you would rather see yet another tax (property tax) imposed on the citizens rather than using existing revenues.
Editor’s Note: Mike Zinkin was a member of Oro Valley’s Town Council until 2016, and voted against the purchase of the community center.
Don’t Get Fooled Again
I moved to Oro Valley in 1994 with my wife and two young daughters. I know firsthand the thrill of caravanning and carpooling all over Northwest Tucson, Marana and Catalina to girls’ softball practice and games. I feel your pain and support the building of new sports fields for the children of Oro Valley, but at what price?
Although I’m a retired Raytheon engineer, this is not rocket science. I consider myself a simple and pragmatic man. Please consider this simple and pragmatic argument against Prop 454.
We currently have four multi-use sports fields available to Oro Valley children. Two are large fields completed in Naranja Park in 2014. Today, two more large fields costing $1 million are under construction to be completed in the spring of 2018. My question is, do we really need a $17 million bond at a taxpayer cost of $28 million for an additional 3 multisports fields and 4 diamond fields? Or are we being fooled into paying for more than what we need? Are the children being used as pawns for the city to accelerate the build out of unneeded park infrastructure despite the ‘pay as you go’ philosophy in the park master plan? Is this bond possibly a bailout of the losses and future liabilities incurred by the community center and golf course?
Unlike the golf course and community center purchase, you have an opportunity to voice your opinion in November and hold the Town Council accountable. Surely, with a town budget of $126 million and the right priorities, the council can carve out enough funds over the next three to five years to build the sports fields needed for our children with a ‘pay as you go’ strategy. Let’s not get fooled again. Vote “no” on Prop 454!