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OV Fact Checker

With so much misinformation floating around, it can be difficult to track down the facts. To that end, the Town of Oro Valley wants to clear up some misconceptions and answer the community’s most frequently asked questions. And remember, you can always ask us questions or submit comments via the AskOV online portal or by emailing us at ask@orovalleyaz.gov.

 

The Town’s annual budget increases to match the revenues that the Town receives. Think of it in terms of getting a pay raise at work. If your personal annual income increases, then so does your budget. You must now plan how to use, invest or save those additional funds that are coming into your household. In the Town of Oro Valley, revenues come from sales taxes, construction taxes, bed (hotel) taxes, state-shared revenues and grant funding from outside sources, to name a few. If the budget did not increase, these income sources would continue to be received by the Town but would not be spent in the full delivery of services to the community.

The primary reasons Oro Valley’s budget increased for FY 18-19 are the increased revenues from PAG/RTA outside funding for roadway projects, bond funding to pay for planned capital projects and increased savings balances in our funds that are also earmarked to pay cash for capital projects.

Recently, a neighboring jurisdiction’s water tested positive for two unregulated compounds. We can assure our Oro Valley Water Utility customers that these compounds have NOT been detected in our water system or water supply.

The Town of Oro Valley tests for 112 regulated contaminants and other water quality parameters, as required by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In addition, the Oro Valley Water Utility voluntarily tests for various unregulated contaminants that could be regulated at some point in the future. Unregulated contaminants are those that the EPA is studying to determine what levels could be detrimental to human health. The EPA establishes advisory guidelines (rather than maximum contaminant levels) for these compounds.

Oro Valley will continue to monitor for regulated and unregulated contaminants to ensure a safe water supply system. If you have any questions about your water, please contact the Oro Valley Water Utility at 520-229-5000.

The Town’s General Plan, Your Voice Our Future, which was created and ratified by the residents of Oro Valley, clearly states that residents want a “complete community.” A complete community includes employment, housing, shopping, dining and recreation opportunities and amenities for all ages. In order to achieve a complete community, there must be a variety of housing options to support the full spectrum of Oro Valley residents.

A recent market study by Norris Design and the Real Estate Consulting Group, was presented to Town Council in January 2018. The study shows that in order to bring more retail businesses to our community, there will need to be more single family homes and multi-family housing, such as apartments. Apartment complexes are a great opportunity to drive more retail businesses to Oro Valley, so that residents can shop locally. (See OV Fact Checker question about Oro Valley Marketplace.)

One of the concerns expressed by residents is the perception of apartments being low-income and high-crime areas. This has proven to be completely untrue in Oro Valley. For example, in the last six months of 2017, the three new apartment complexes along Oracle Road saw a total of 44 crimes. By comparison, the Copper Creek neighborhood, which has a similar number of homes, reported 69 crimes over the same period of time. (Source: crimereports.com). Overall, Oro Valley continues to rank as one of the safest communities nationally and regionally. In fact, Safe Home named Oro Valley the 2017 Safest City in Arizona.

Also of interest, these apartments offer units for rent from $1000 to 1600 a month, which is $400 higher than the market average.

Yes, the Town of Oro Valley’s has the water resources to support this new development. The Town has been designated by the Arizona Department of Water Resources as having an “Assured and Adequate Water Supply” for the Water Utility’s entire service area for a period of 100 years. This designation means that the Town has demonstrated successful long-term water supply planning, adequate preservation of groundwater resources and the use of renewable water supplies.

The Oro Valley Water Utility continues to manage its water resources for the future by maintaining a diverse water resource portfolio that includes meeting the potable water needs through the responsible utilization of groundwater while maximizing the use of renewable water resources such as Central Arizona Project (CAP) water. The Town also delivers reclaimed water for the irrigation of golf courses, schools and athletic fields. Additionally, the Water Utility has been storing all of its unused CAP water allocation in nearby underground recharge facilities. This stored water can be recovered at a later date to offset shortages that may occur in the future.

Currently, the Town has 19,500 service connections serving a population of about 44,000 residents. Due to the Town’s diligence in securing, managing and conserving its water resources, the Water Utility delivers less total water resources per year than it did over a decade ago. Looking forward, the Water Utility projects that we have enough water resource availability to support the Town’s current boundary to buildout, including an estimated additional 4,000 single family residences, even if the current CAP drought contingency plans go into effect.

The Town of Oro Valley is not allowing development in protected open space. The term “open space” is often used incorrectly to refer to privately owned and undeveloped, natural desert. And there is a false assumption that this undeveloped land is legally protected so that it remains undeveloped. The fact is, much of the natural desert space throughout Oro Valley is privately owned parcels of land. The parcels are zoned to legally allow development of houses (residential) and/or businesses (commercial). Property owners have the legal right to develop their land as long as the design complies with Town regulations. Many incorrectly assume that a governmental entity can simply take away this right without purchasing the land.

The true definition of “open space” is natural areas that—through zoning, conservation easements or public ownership—have been preserved formally from development. These areas are intended to benefit the community overall, but may or may not be accessible for public use.

The Town of Oro Valley understands the importance of conserving natural beauty, which is why it is such a high priority when working with developers. The Town’s General Plan highlights the importance of conservation and beauty within our town, and the Environmentally Sensitive Lands Ordinance is a direct response to the value we place on natural beauty.

Oro Valley’s Environmentally Sensitive Lands Ordinance helps conserve natural, scenic, hillside, and cultural resources. This has been accomplished in a comprehensive manner by accounting for environmental, archeological and historic resources, economic development, and housing policies.

The Environmentally Sensitive Lands Ordinance was developed through extensive community input and the research of proven conservation methods. In fact, the science and standards of the Pima County Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan served as the foundation. Oro Valley’s approach is more comprehensive, precise and far reaching than any other municipality in Southern Arizona.

Click here to learn more about the Town’s Environmentally Sensitive Lands Ordinance.

The greatest challenge in filling those vacant storefronts at Oro Valley Marketplace (located at Tangerine and Oracle) is the lack of population density surrounding the shopping center. A recent market study, presented to Town Council in January 2018, shows that the Marketplace has a very low surrounding population density compared to similar retail properties. That density is the formula required by retailers to open their doors. For example, the average population for other Vestar properties in Arizona is 41,739 people per square mile. At the Marketplace, the density is only 18,547.

Increasing population density (see OV Fact Checker question about apartments along Oracle Road) is one of the ways Oro Valley can help its business community thrive while increasing the number of local retail services for residents. This is important because in lieu of a property tax, the Town of Oro Valley relies heavily on sales tax revenue to fund core services such as public safety, parks and roadways.

Oro Valley Marketplace is owned and managed by Vestar, a real estate manager and developer. Vestar and retail brokers are the ones who negotiate lease rates and agreements with tenants. The Town of Oro Valley is not involved in this private transaction process; however, the Town’s Economic Development Division works to ensure that potential businesses are aware of available space and the benefits of opening a business in Oro Valley.

Currently, in its third year of operations, the Community Center, which includes golf, tennis, fitness and the Overlook Restaurant, is on track to be completely funded by a combination of operational revenues (e.g. member dues, daily play, tournament fees, user fees, food/beverage sales, merchandise sales), and the designated half-cent sales tax.

Looking back a little further, when the Community Center was acquired in 2015, Town Council appropriated $1.2 million from the General Fund to support operations in its first year. In FY 2015/16, the Community Center Fund saw investment of $2 million in dedicated half-cent sales taxes, but still ended the year with expenses exceeding revenues by $863,000. For FY 2016/17, the dedicated sales tax revenues totaled $2.2 million, but the fund ended the year with expenses exceeding revenues by just over $600,000. The Town Council approved an additional $350,000 from the General Fund into the Community Center Fund, resulting in expenses exceeding revenues by $250,000.

For FY 2017/18, we saw continued improvement, particularly in revenues, with 20% growth estimated in golf revenues and nearly 10% growth in fitness member dues and recreation programs. In fact, FY 17/18 saw an average of 2,344 fitness and tennis members. We are on track to end FY 17/18 with an estimated $30,000 surplus in the Community Center Fund, with no support needed from the General Fund.

No, golf is not the only amenity supported by tax dollars. The fact is, all parks and recreation amenities, including the Aquatic Center and our parks, require community investment. While some of these facilities do generate revenue, that amount does not cover expenses.

For example, over at the Aquatic Center, Fiscal Year 2017-18 saw $639,603 in revenues, but actual expenses were $1,303,652. So that facility required a community investment of approximately $664,000. That’s nearly 51 percent.

The Town understands that not every resident uses our parks, the same way that not every resident uses our transit system or programs for special needs. But each of these elements is part of the full-service community that we are working to build, where there is something for everyone. A robust and diversified Parks and Recreation program aligns with our goal of being a complete community.

The Town of Oro Valley’s financial health continues to be strong, as we expect to close out the 2017-18 fiscal year with an estimated $2.6 million surplus from fiscally responsible spending and strong sales tax collections due to a local economy that continues to improve both at the state and local level. These surplus funds will be deposited into the Town’s capital fund savings account for future planned projects.

The Town of Oro Valley retains a very healthy 28.5 percent general fund reserve balance, a fund that has consistently been maintained at or above the Town Council policy of 25 percent minimum. As in previous years, the Town will finance some of the planned improvements through a tax exempt municipal bond, which enables local government to capitalize on current—rather than projected rising—construction costs. This funding mechanism also assures financial participation by future residents—not just current residents—as debt service payments will be made from sales taxes, impact and utility fees. With its excellent AA- bond rating, the Town expects very low bond interest rates.

Impressively, the Town has ended every fiscal year “in the black” for the past six years, with revenues meeting or exceeding expenses. On top of that, the Town of Oro Valley has been awarded the Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting by the Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada for its comprehensive annual financial report for the 23rd year in a row. The Certificate of Achievement is the highest form of recognition in the area of governmental accounting and financial reporting.

To learn more about the Town’s budget and financial health, be sure to visit our FY 2018-19 budget information page. Click here to view.

No, Oro Valley does not levy a property tax. Oro Valley residents do pay property taxes to Pima County and special districts (such as the Amphi School District, Golder Ranch Fire District and the Pima County Public Library); however, the Town does not receive any portion of these taxes.

Oracle Road is actually a state highway, State Route 77, which is managed by Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT). Although a portion of the roadway is within Oro Valley’s town limits, ADOT is responsible for all the traffic signals, roadway maintenance and right-of-ways (sidewalks). However, the Town does have an agreement with ADOT to allow our operations staff to manage the landscaping within the medians along the roadway. In addition, the Oro Valley Police Department has the authority to provide law enforcement along this stretch of road.

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