Monday, April 26, 2021

Use of Half Percent Sales Tax Levy In Limbo

Solomon illness causes decision delay
Last week, the Oro Valley town Council discussed, but did not vote on broadening the use of the half cent sales tax. This tax is dedicated to the town’s golf and community center operation. It amounts to more than $2.6 million annually and its growing.

Winfield wants to broaden use of funds and issue bonds to pay for parks and recreation wants
Winfield’s intent is to used these funds together with potential bond financing “...for construction of parks and recreation, golf, and community center capital projects, and/or other uses as determined by council.”  

The specific measure would continue to dedicate about $2 million to golf and the community center; and use the remainder of sales tax revenues, about $800,000 for other facilities.

Statement of Mayor Winfield in support of measure
“I support broadening the use of half-percent sales tax to support priority town parks and recreation facilities, such as our town golf courses, the community center, Naranja Park, Steam Pump Ranch, Amphitheater School District Partnership, multi-use paths and, potentially, other priorities through bond financing. 

Incredibly, 93% of our community agreed that Oro Valley’s parks and recreation system makes our town a more desirable place to live, although not all residents use priority parks facilities. 

Even though the community is unified about the importance of our parks and recreation system, I believe the creation of the community center fund and the dedicated half percent sales tax, has created in effect “winners and losers,” fueling community division and hampering flexibility to fund the town’s parks and recreation assets, including the golf courses and community center.

For example, the town has owned Naranja Park for twenty years and it is only partially developed. Steam Pump Ranch was purchased by the town in 2004. Several of the structures are on the national register of historic places and urgently need restoration work. 

I believe it is good public policy to broaden the use of the half-percent sales tax to spread investment across multiple parks and recreation facilities. This includes the town’s golf courses, the community center, Naranja Park, Steam Pump Ranch and potentially other priorities.I believe this action will ultimately benefit the greatest number of our residents and help to unify our town. That’s why I support this policy decision.”

Other Parks and Recreation Needs
The town has completed its 2021 Parks and Recreation Ten Year Master Plan. The plan will be reviewed and, after some change, approved by council. The priorities of this plan are shown the panel above.

Public Reaction Mixed
This council item was a public hearing. Reactions of the twenty people who spoke were mixed. Those in favor felt that the town had many other important parks and recreation needs that were long ignored. Those against either did not understand the proposal, since it was not explained to them until after the public hearing; or felt that the golf courses and community center had needs that were supposed to have been met long ago. For example, replacing irrigation and making the community center ADA compliant.

Next step
The council will discuss and vote upon the broadening of use of the half percent sales tax at the May 5 council meeting.