Vail incorporation movement gains with push for petition drive

2011-06-01T00:00:00Z 2011-06-01T11:08:54Z Vail incorporation movement gains with push for petition driveBy Kellie Mejdrich Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
June 01, 2011 12:00 am  • 

Supporters of incorporation in Vail say they will push the Vail Community Action Board to back a petition drive aimed at creating a new city on Tucson's southeast side.

If 10 percent of the registered voters in an as-yet-undefined incorporation district sign, it will trigger an incorporation election. A pitch to take the next step toward creating a new city will come at the Community Action Board's July 14 meeting.

The push comes on the heels of a town-hall meeting in April when more than 300 people voted on what Vail's future should look like - 57 percent of those attending chose incorporation as their preferred course of action. Other options included creating an improvement district to raise money for more services, which was the second favorite; not incorporating but creating a community council that has more influence but no formal power; and doing nothing.

A subcommittee of the action board started looking at different options for increasing governance a year ago.

"The biggest thing is just to make sure that the community has a voice, that they have a representative body," said Mendy Gomez, who chairs the planning subcommittee. "There's not local representation."

Specifics such as the actual boundary for an incorporated area, how much tax revenue could be collected, or the cost of running a city haven't been studied in detail, Gomez said.

"Our charge was to just research the governance options," Gomez said, "and let the community decide."

Now that most of those at the meeting voted to incorporate, Anne Gibson, the president of the Vail Community Action Board, hopes a group of interested residents will step forward and start the process of incorporation.

"It's very, very important that the community be a part of this," Gibson said. "They are the ones that are going to have to live with it."

With no set boundary, it's hard to estimate how much money could be raised in taxes to support a new government, Gibson said. The subcommittee that studied incorporation used the Vail school district as a regional guideline, but since the school district includes areas inside the city of Tucson, it's not accurate to make estimates, she said.

Besides local control, another benefit of incorporation would be that the new municipality would get a share of state-shared revenues, which go only to incorporated areas in Arizona.

That's a key loss to the region now, said Byron Howard, the special-projects manager for the city of Tucson.

"If we were incorporated in the region, equal to what Maricopa County has done, estimates have been as high as $70 million a year in additional revenue," Howard said. "In a decade, that's $700 million."

Howard said a community like Vail should look to incorporate if it wants additional services.

Tom Belshe, the deputy director of the League of Arizona Cities and Towns, said Vail's decision to incorporate really comes down to what the residents want.

"If you like your level of services, you ought to stick with it, but if you want a higher level of services in your area, you might want to consider incorporation," Belshe said.

Currently, Vail gets services such as law enforcement and road management from Pima County. If Vail incorporates, the town would have to assume those services along with the administration of the incorporated area, including elections for a council, having a budget, and treasury functions. The town also would be able to provide more services - although that costs more money, Howard said.

Overall, more planning and evaluation are needed, and it's probably going to be more expensive than residents realize, he said.

"Someone needs to sit down and identify the true cost of running a town, whatever that may be, including establishing how many law enforcement officers they'll need for their town," Howard said.

Who will come up with those answers will be discussed at the next Vail Community Action Board meeting, Gibson said.

After that's done, plans to incorporate seem hopeful, Gibson said. "I think, personally, if they start with a small area, that it's quite likely," Gibson said.

The Vail Community Action Board will meet on July 14 at 5:30 p.m. at 13801 E. Benson Highway.

Contact Kellie Mejdrich at KMejdrich@azstarnet.com

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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