Thursday, June 22, 2017

Editorial ~ Is money really saved by closing 27 holes of golf?

How much are we saving by closing the golf courses when it means that we’re also shutting down the revenue stream?

As some of you know, the Town has once again closed 27 holes of YOUR community-owned golf courses. Last year the Town closed the Conquistador and the Pusch Ridge Courses. This year they have closed the Canada and Pusch Ridge courses. It is readily apparent that by closing the courses, the income stream from outside play (non-members) is completely shut off.

Prime Time
As for the one course that is available, the members get the "prime" tee times. As you can well imagine, the best summer tee times are before 9:00 AM. This allows one to play a round and be off the course before the temperature gets too hot. A recent look at the “Golf Now” site shows that one cannot get a tee time at the Community Center before 9:20 AM. With courses like The Views, Crooked Tree, and Rancho Vistoso within a very short commute, why would a non-member choose to start play at 9:20 at our golf courses when there are earlier tees time available at comparable prices at other courses?

The need to cut expenses
Since the revenue stream is terminated, one would think that a responsible manager would also cut the expenses. We only have the numbers for FY 15/16 to compare. (FY 16/17 does not end until June 30 and the Town does not release the end-of-year numbers until the Council returns from its summer break in September.)

Expenses were higher when the courses were closed
During the months July-September 2015, when two of the courses were CLOSED, the Troon payroll averaged $183,083 per month. The utilities (including water) averaged $137,580 per month. The total operating expenses averaged $323,703 per month (payroll, employee benefits, professional fees, advertising, marketing, etc.)

During the months November 2015-March 2016, which is the prime season and the courses were OPEN, the Troon payroll averaged $133,540 per month. The utilities averaged $62,297 per month. The total operating expenses averaged $229,509 per month.

Why was Troon’s payroll an average of $50,000 higher per month during the three months that two of the courses were closed? Why were their operating expenses an average of $75,000 higher per month? Is it because the prime tee times were reserved for members so there was no additional revenue stream from outside (non-member) play?

Net losses were lower when the courses were open
The net loss (expenses minus revenues) when the courses were closed averaged $383,310 per month, while the net loss during the prime time was $97,875 per month.

Are the net losses lower during prime time because there is an additional income stream on the course that the members don’t play? If yes, this supports the argument to eliminate the member/private scenario and make the courses truly public.

In essence, we’re subsidizing two closed golf courses and one Members-Only course
Is there really any savings made by closing the two courses? We all know that this golf venture is a drain on Oro Valley, but it appears that closing 27 holes of golf, and giving the members priority tee times for the one remaining course, only serves to compound the losses, your losses.

These numbers come from the Town's end of Fiscal Year 2015/16 numbers. If anyone should desire a copy of these numbers, please email: fiscalhelp2017@gmail.com and they will be provided.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Mike Zinkin on Garret Lewis Radio Show

Tune in to 790 AM - KNST at 7:10 AM today (Wednesday, June 21st) to hear an in-depth discussion of today's editorial (below) on the Garret Lewis Radio Show.

Editorial ~ The El Conquistador Purchase from HSL appears to be the most Irresponsible Decision in the History of Oro Valley

On tonight’s Town Council agenda (Wednesday, June 21, 2017) is a discussion for possible action to amend the Fiscal Year 16/17 budget before it expires on June 30th. The Finance Director is requesting that the Council allow for a reallocation of an expected $2 million dollar General Fund surplus. What does this mean? If the Council approves this reallocation, instead of adding the $2 million surplus to the General Fund Contingency, they will instead add only $300,000.

Here’s the plan:
The Finance Director is requesting that the Council take $350,000 of the surplus and direct it to the Community and Recreation Center Fund (CRC). Keep in mind how the Mayor and his minions have stated time and time again how there’s no need to worry because, "We have a fund to cover all the golf and community center expenses.” That fund is the CRC which is funded with the half-cent sales tax increase. (The remaining allocations are explained at the end of this article).

The Council report states:
"Based on year-end budget projections presented in the April financial reports, it is estimated that the Community Center Fund will end the year with an estimated deficit of $285,000, including the $120,000 loan repayment transfer to the General Fund. Contributing factors to this deficit are mainly water costs due to unseasonably warm and dry weather conditions this spring and golf member dues revenues trending under budget. Staff is recommending a transfer of $350,000 from the estimated year-end General Fund surplus amount of nearly $2 million into this fund to close the deficit and provide a minimal positive fund balance to begin FY 2017/18.”

Robbing Peter to pay Paul
In other words, the half-cent sales tax is NOT covering the expenses as promised. Therefore, in order to begin the new fiscal year with a positive CRC Fund balance and to meet this year’s $120,000 loan repayment obligation back to the General Fund Contingency, they want to transfer $350,000 from the General Fund into the CRC Fund.

(As a reminder, in 2015, the Council borrowed $2.1 million from the General Fund Contingency to start the CRC Fund with a promise to repay it at $120,000 per year for 10 years. Due to lack of funds, the Town Council already reneged on the first year’s payment in 2016. Now, in 2017, still lacking the funds, they want to repay it by transferring money from one account to another.)

What has this foolish purchase cost the citizens of Oro Valley so far?
  • $1 million to purchase the Community Center and Golf Courses
  • $1.2 million taken from the General Fund Contingency to start the CRC Fund
  • $350,000 in additional General Fund revenues to keep the CRC Fund in a "minimal positive balance”
  • $506,710 in additional sales tax revenues in FY 14/15
  • $2,030,750 in additional sales tax revenues in FY 15/16
  • $1,811,207 in additional sales tax revenues so far in FY 16/17 (through April 30th)

TOTAL COST: $6,898,667

It’s a Matter of Trust
Remember, these are the same irresponsible people who are now asking Oro Valley citizens to approve a Secondary Property Tax to fund ball fields. They actually expect us to trust them with another $17 million dollars in light of this record?
………………………………

Addendum
Additionally (but unrelated to the Community Center) the Town is also requesting $300,000 to be allocated to the Self-Insurance Benefit Fund which is expecting a year-end deficit of $200,000-$250,000 plus an estimated $1,073,051 to refund excess employee contributions made into the Public Safety Personnel Retirement System (PSPRS). This will provide lump-sum reimbursement payments to the Town’s PSPRS members. You can read the entire Executive Summary by clicking here:

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Air Quality Advisory for Particulates and Ozone

The following report was released by the Pima County Department of Environmental Quality for June 20, 2017

Pima County, Ariz. – The hazy skies and disappearing mountain views are linked to wildfires in the region.

The Pima County Department of Environmental Quality (PDEQ) is issuing an air quality advisory due to elevated levels of particulate matter throughout eastern Pima County. According to the National Weather Service, winds are bringing smoke from the Frye Fire near Safford into the Tucson area.

In addition, there is a possibility that strong winds predicted for later today could add airborne dust to the mix of elevated particulates. Particulate levels will likely remain in the air for a day or more until the wind direction and speeds change, or if it rains. Also, when the cloud cover we are currently experiencing dissipates, it is possible that the solar radiation will increase ground-level ozone pollution as well.

Individuals with heart disease and respiratory sensitivities may want to reduce their level of exertion to decrease the amount of particulates they breathe into their lungs. Small particles can travel into the respiratory system and cause short-term health effects such as eye, nose, throat, and lung irritation, coughing, sneezing, runny nose and shortness of breath. Those most at risk may feel better if they avoid outside exercise, stay inside as much as possible, and keep windows and doors closed to help reduce exposure to particulate matter.

Particulate matter is made up of tiny specks of soot, dust, and aerosols that are suspended in the air we breathe. Particulate matter can come from dust from disturbed land that becomes airborne with high winds and also from combustion sources such as cars, industry, and indoor and outside fires.

Protect our Children and Pets ~ Keep Stormwater Clean

From Pima County Department of Environmental Quality

Pima County, Ariz. (June 19, 2017) –The monsoon rains are coming soon (we hope) which is a perfect time to remember why it is important to pick up after our pets.

Pet waste can contain disease-carrying microorganisms and can transmit diseases to other pets, wildlife and even children.

How can a little pet poop end up contaminating our stormwater? There are thousands of dogs and cats depositing waste on the ground throughout our community. The waste from carnivores can be teeming with disease-carrying organisms such as bacteria, parasites, and viruses. Just one gram of dog poop can contain 23 million fecal coliform bacteria! If ingested, this type of bacteria can affect health causing cramps, diarrhea, intestinal illness, and urinary tract and kidney infections.

When it rains, the water picks up whatever contaminants are on the soil or in our streets and takes the pollution to washes and the desert where it can interfere with native plants and wildlife habitats. Children and dogs love to play in the stormwater and wildlife relies on it for their life cycle. By picking up after our pets, we can prevent E. coli and other organisms from negatively affecting the health of all who come in contact with the contaminated stormwater.

Pet waste contamination of stormwater is a problem with an easy solution:

- Set a good example by “scooping the poop” and properly disposing waste from your pets
- Work with your neighbors to encourage responsible pet ownership
- Install plastic bag holders and bins for proper disposal around your neighborhood

Here are other ways to help protect the quality of our stormwater:

- Fix leaky vehicles
- Use copper-free or low-copper containing brake pads
- Harvest rainwater on your property so it stays out of the dirty streets
- Don’t be a litter bug and pick up litter when you see it
- Dispose of household hazardous waste properly
- Apply pesticide, herbicide, and fertilizer sparingly to minimize runoff,
     or use more earth-friendly ways to reduce pests and grow healthy plants.

Monday, June 19, 2017

The Watchdog Report: By Mike Zinkin

Despite tourist and snowbird season, losses continue at the Oro Valley Golf and Community Center

The numbers are in for April 2017 and continue to reveal the irresponsible investment in the Golf and Community Center. Keep in mind that April is one of the months that the Town looks forward to because it is in the heart of the tourist and snowbird season.

So far this fiscal year (July 2016 through April 2017) the Town's expenditures (fitness, recreation programs, swim) exceeded its revenues by $94,006. As noted in prior months, this loss is tolerable because this is the Community Center portion of the investment.

However, Troon's losses (food, beverage, golf) for the same period were $1,954,005. Together these losses total $2,048,011. The losses were offset by the sales tax revenues of $1,811,207.

Turning a $2800 surplus into a $285,000 deficit in just one month
Through April 2017, the Community and Recreation Center Fund (CRF) is $284,583 in the red. (This fund was started by taking $1.2 million from the General Fund Contingency). The March financials indicated that the CRF was forecasted to end the fiscal year with a positive balance of $2,834. However, this was updated in April to show that the CRF will now end the fiscal year $284,971 in the red. If this forecast comes to fruition, once again the Town Council will be forced to delay the promised yearly $120,000 payback to the General Fund Contingency.

Troon’s crystal ball continues to malfunction
Troon forecasted golf losses to be $63,685 for April 2017, but the actual losses were $144,954. That’s a $81,269 miscalculation. Troon's original forecast to lose $1,534,505 in FY 16/17 has recently been updated to $2,346,563. This is a miscalculation of $812,058, or 44%.

In the new FY 17/18 budget, Troon forecasts losses of $1,822,941 but history tells us it will be over $2,000,000 again.

The food and beverage portion, (primarily the Overlook Restaurant) was forecasted to make $29,241. The actual number came in at a loss of $6,714. So far this fiscal year, The Overlook Restaurant has lost $100,420. April brings the end to the high season. What can we expect in May and June as the fiscal year comes to a close?

It’s about fiscal responsibility
The current Council is asking the citizens to approve a Secondary Property Tax for Naranja Park improvements. Consider how many improvements could be accomplished at Naranja Park without the burden of an additional property tax if the Town wasn’t spending $2,000,000 per year to cover golf and restaurant losses at the Community Center.

Didn’t I already pay for this?
One might believe, since it is called a Community Center, that it would be available to the residents at no cost. Isn’t the community already paying for it through the additional half cent sales tax to support it? One might think that a citizen could use the driving range and golf practice facilities, or even swim in one of the two pools or play tennis as a benefit of being a citizen of Oro Valley. However, the only way a citizen can utilize any amenity at the Community Center is to pay for it.

Again, this raises the question: Is it a center for the community or is it a private club being subsidized by the Citizens of Oro Valley?

Mike Zinkin has a Bachelor’s degree in history and government from the University of Arizona and a Master’s degree in Social and Philosophical Foundations of Education from California State University, Northridge. He was a commissioned ensign in the United States Navy Reserve in 1969. He worked as an Air Traffic Controller for 30 years. He and his wife moved to Oro Valley after retiring in 1998. Mike served on the Oro Valley Development Review Board from 2005-2009, the Board of Adjustment from 2011-2012, and the Town Council from 2012-2016. During his time on council, he was named as one of 23 Leadership Fellows for the National League of Cities University, he was a member of the National League of Cities Steering Committee for Community and Economic Development, and a member of the Arizona League of Cities Budget and Economic Development Committee.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Air Quality Advisory

Pima County Department of Environmental Quality

Air Quality Advisory ~ Friday, June 16, 2017

The Pima County Department of Environmental Quality is issuing another ozone advisory today. There is a strong possibility that ozone levels will be elevated throughout the weekend and early next week as well.

Pima County, Ariz. – For the third day in a row, the Pima County Department of Environmental Quality (PDEQ) is issuing an air quality advisory due to elevated levels of ground-level ozone air pollution in the Tucson metropolitan area. Yesterday’s levels were high enough to exceed the E.PA. health standard for ozone. Today’s readings are increasing by the hour.

Ozone levels may also be elevated for the next few days, as long as current weather conditions persist.

Individuals who are especially sensitive to air pollution may experience shortness of breath, coughing, throat irritation, wheezing and breathing discomfort. If sensitive to ozone, individuals may want to limit outside exertion until 6 p.m. when levels of ozone pollution should begin to decrease. Intense outdoor physical activity causes faster and deeper breathing, which allows ozone to penetrate into parts of the lungs that are more likely to be injured.

Those who tend to be more sensitive to ozone include children, adults who are active outdoors, people with respiratory diseases, and certain individuals who have an unusual sensitivity to this particular air pollutant. Individuals who are feeling symptoms should seek medical attention, if necessary.

There are many types of emissions that contribute to the creation of ground-level ozone. Motor vehicle exhaust, industrial and power plant emissions, gasoline vapors, chemical solvents, as well as natural sources such as wildfires, emit oxides of nitrogen and volatile organic compounds that form ozone in the presence of intense sunlight. The following are actions we can take to reduce the production of ground level ozone:

• Reduce driving - combine errands into one trip
• Ride the bus, bike, walk or share a ride with friends and family
• Avoid idling your vehicle’s engine. Refrain from long drive-thru lines; park and go inside instead
• Re-fuel your car after 6 p.m. when fumes are less likely to form ozone
• While re-fueling, always stop at the click
• Make sure your gas cap is tightly sealed after re-fueling
• Check your tire pressure monthly to reduce gasoline use and associated pollution
• Use low VOC or water-based paints, stains, finishes and paint strippers
• Avoid using gas-powered lawn and gardening equipment
• Conserve electricity to reduce emissions from power plants

PDEQ monitors air pollution in our region at 16 air quality monitoring stations. Up-to-the-hour air pollution levels are available in the air monitoring section of the PDEQ website at www.pima.gov/deq.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Addendum to Wednesday’s article, “Eliminate and ignore citizen participation…It’s in our nature.”

After studying the resolution in the June 7th council packet regarding the agenda item, “Consolidate the Planning and Zoning Commission and the Conceptual Design Review Board” it appears that:

The 7-member Conceptual Design Review Board (CDRB) is going to be abolished and the Arts Review Commission is going to take its place.

The responsibilities of the Planning and Zoning Commission will be markedly different, as follows:

(1) They will no longer coordinate the development review of Town land use plans. (No more citizen oversight).

(2) They will no longer be responsible for maintaining the adopted General Plan criteria. (No more citizen oversight to make sure that developments are consistent with the General Plan prior to going to Council for a vote).

(3) They will no longer consider all conditions listed as requirements in the Oro Valley Zoning Code for a given conditional use permit (CUP). They will no longer provide recommendations to the Town Council on proposed rezonings or conditional use permits. (No more citizen input on rezonings or CUP’s prior to going to Council for a vote).

(4) Their focus will no longer be limited primarily to land use issues, but will now include “detailed design consideration.” This task was previously performed by the 7-member CDRB.

It appears that most developer activity will now go directly to the Town Council with no citizen review or input beforehand.

Guest View: Mike Zinkin ~ Eliminate and ignore citizen participation… It’s in our nature

When Satish Hiremath ran for Mayor in 2010, he desired to do away with all the Oro Valley citizen Boards and Commissions.

Eliminating Citizen Participation
Immediately upon being elected, Hiremath did away with the 5-member Bond and Finance Commission. This citizen commission was tasked with advising the Finance Department during the creation of the budget. It was made up of people familiar with accounting, including business owners. The opportunity for five knowledgeable citizens to advise the Town was eliminated.

Next, the 7-member Development Review Board was abolished and replaced with the 7-member Conceptual Design Review Board (CDRB). However, this was not just a name change because with the establishment of the CDRB they also abolished the 5-member Arts Review Commission, thus eliminating the chance for another five citizens to offer input to the Council.

On tonight’s Town Council agenda (June 7th), the first item on the Regular Agenda is to “Consolidate the Planning and Zoning Commission and the Conceptual Design Review Board.” There is a Public Hearing on this item. If passed, the people of Oro Valley will lose another opportunity to give their input to the Council and Town Staff, as this decision will eliminate another seven people from advising the Council. (Council cannot abolish the Planning and Zoning Commission or the Board of Adjustment as they are both required by State law.)

Ignoring Citizens’ Desires
Doing away with boards and commissions staffed by citizen volunteers is all part of the mayor's pattern of silencing the citizens.  It does not matter what the Citizens desire.  Example:  The June 2014 statistically valid Parks and Recreation survey (paid for by the Town) indicated that out of 34 possible facilities/amenities that the People desired, golf came in at #33. So what did Mayor Hiremath and his puppets do? They bought 3 golf courses in December 2014, just six months after the completion of the survey.

Editor’s Note: There are two Public Hearings scheduled for tonight. (1) Public Hearing on consolidating P&Z with the CDRB. (2) Public Hearing on approving the adoption of the FY 2017/18 budget.

Mike Zinkin has a Bachelor’s degree in history and government from the University of Arizona and a Master’s degree in Social and Philosophical Foundations of Education from California State University, Northridge. He was a commissioned ensign in the United States Navy Reserve in 1969. He worked as an Air Traffic Controller for 30 years. He and his wife moved to Oro Valley after retiring in 1998. Mike served on the Oro Valley Development Review Board from 2005-2009, the Board of Adjustment from 2011-2012, and the Town Council from 2012-2016. During his time on council, he was named as one of 23 Leadership Fellows for the National League of Cities University, he was a member of the National League of Cities Steering Committee for Community and Economic Development, and a member of the Arizona League of Cities Budget and Economic Development Committee.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Update on Community Center Traffic Light

An intergovernmental agreement with the Regional Transportation Authority(RTA) for a traffic signal, as opposed to a crosswalk, was approved by Council and the RTA in January. The cost estimate is approximately $500K. The project will rollover into FY 17/18 and is expected to start in September 2017.