Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Oro Valley Council To Study Feasibility Of An Industrial Development Authority

As reported in The Explorer,(below) the OV Council will initiate a Study Session to determine the feasibility of initiating a Industrial Development Authority in order to access bond funding for private interests intent on developing.

Industrial authority moved to study item

A proposal to start an industrial development authority in Oro Valley has been put on hold to give the council time to learn more about how the body would function.

The Oro Valley Town Council last Wednesday voted unanimously to hold a study session on the issue before making a final decision on it.

Councilwoman Salette Latas had requested that the item appear on the Feb. 17 agenda. The Explorer was unable to reach her before publication deadline last week for comment on the matter.

Latas subsequently said she asked to have the proposed industrial development authority on the agenda to weigh whether it would make sense for the town to establish one.

The IDA, which would function similar to other town commissions with members appointed by the council, would act as an intermediary to the bond markets.

Communities across the state have IDAs, which access bond funding for private interests intent on developing. The IDAs come in because often times the private interests don't have access to traditional funding.

With a local government's backing, bond financing often comes tax-free as well. Taxpayers are not financially liable for any of the debt incurred by the private interest in an IDA agreement.

In Oro Valley's case, the IDA issue came up as result of an inquiry from the operators of a charter school.

BASIS Charter School, a well-regarded public charter, has expressed interest in opening a school in Oro Valley. The non-profit that operates BASIS has schools in Scottsdale and Tucson.

School founder Michael Block had asked town economic development staffers if Oro Valley operates an IDA. Numerous charters across Arizona have gotten funding through IDAs. Pima County's IDA has provided more than $500 million in bond funding to charters over the past 10 years.

Because Oro Valley does not have an IDA, BASIS has looked outside to get funding.

"They have gone to the City of Florence for bond financing," according to Amanda Jacobs, Oro Valley economic development coordinator.

Jacobs told the council the school would be able to pay off its debt sooner by going through the Pinal County city, and would save nearly $400,000 in the process.

Block previously told The Explorer that he still intends to open in Oro Valley, possibly by the start of the next school term. The school has looked at an industrial site just off Oracle Road once occupied by Sanofi-aventis as a location for the new charter.

The town council still intends to discuss the possibility of initiating an IDA.

Oro Valley had an IDA from 1985 to 2006 when it was disbanded. In 21 years, the authority had not engaged in any bonding activity.

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