Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Council Targets Nagging Problems In 2021-22 Record Budget

2021-22 budget cap: $162 Million
Oro Valley will roar into the post pandemic era. Last week, the town council unanimously approved the largest budget cap it the town’s history: $162 Million.

The approved cap is intended to be used to fix nagging problems
An underfunded public safety plan and long needed investment in Naranja Park; Golf Course Irrigation; the town’s trails system are the drivers of the spending.

The council has seized the opportunity to fix these problems now because the town has received free federal money, seen an unexpected surge in sales tax revenues and fees, and has the opportunity to take advantage of cheap interest borrowing rates.

Town Manager’s requested budget: $107.5 million 
The Town Manager’s recommended budget starts the formal budget process. We reported our build up of that budget in April. The town manager submitted a budget of $107.4 million. She was instructed by council to ad $27 million for the pay down of the town’s underfunded public safety pension (“PSPRS”).

Town Council problem fix: $54 million
PSPRS: $27 million 
The budget cap includes $27 million in spending that the council directed the town manager to include in the budget. That amount is to be used to pay-down the town’s underfunded PSPRS.

Parks: $25 million 
Since that budget’s submission, the council directed the town manager to add spending of about $24 million to pay for parks. Half of that was directed by council to be spent on Naranja Park. (Our report on the town $42 million in bonds to cover the PSPRS pay down and parks investment.) 

Annexation of Westward Look: $700,000 
The Westward Look annexation, also a council decision, caused the addition of about $700,000 to the budget. This amount is needed for the town to complete promised improvements and for added funding of $160,000 for “Visit Tucson”. 

The town is required to designate a percentage of its bed tax revenues for tourism attraction. According to Town Manager Mary Jacobs: “We currently utilize Visit Tucson as our primary marketing group.” Visit Tucson had been receiving about 50% of Westward Look’s bed taxes through an agreement with Pima County. The town manager’s budget had included $250,000 for Visit Tucson. So, the total in the budget for Visit Tucson is $410,000

Former Vistoso Golf Course: $1,000,000 
Another council decision will be its role in possible grant funding of $1 million if The Conservation Fund is successful in purchasing the former Vistoso Golf Course from Romspen LLC; and then gifting a permanent conservation easement of the property to the town.

The council will conduct a second hearing on the budget at its June 14 meeting.