If the crowd at the Oro Valley Town Council meeting Wednesday was any indication, there’s a fair amount of community support for $17 million in bond-funded improvements at Naranja Park.
The council is considering whether to put the measure on the November ballot, a decision it will make at its May 3 meeting.
Logan Wertz, an 11-year-old member of the Oro Valley Warriors lacrosse team, expressed a common sentiment when he told council members he and his teammates often have to travel long distances to Phoenix and elsewhere for games and tournaments.
“Why can’t we have these tournaments here in Oro Valley too?” he asked. “The answer is simple: We don’t have the fields.”
While those who spoke were largely supportive of putting the measure before voters, which — if approved — would cost a homeowner with property worth $250,000 around $4.50 a month in secondary property taxes over the 20-year bond, some raised a number of concerns.
Former town Mayor Paul Loomis recounted the consequences of a failed $48.6 million park bond package that was shot down by a 15-point margin in 2008. He said if the council decides to put the bond and property tax on the ballot and voters again say no, that could put a halt to all work on the park for several years.
“The expenditure of additional funds was challenged every time it was brought up,” he said of his experience after the 2008 loss.
He also pointed to recent town data that suggests the measure might not fare well. In June 2014, Oro Valley conducted a phone survey of over 300 residents asking them how likely they would be to support different funding options for the park, including a property tax, sales tax and user fees. Fifty-eight percent of respondents said they were either “not at all likely” or “not very likely” to support such a tax, and only 21 percent said they were “very likely” or “somewhat likely” to support it, according to the survey results.
Loomis suggested conducting another survey to ensure there is adequate support.
Responding to Loomis, Councilman Joe Hornat said the previous park bond issue failed in part because of its size.
“It was a big number and it scared a lot of people,” he said. “We’re talking about a lot smaller numbers.”
Other speakers objected to higher property taxes, and another said he’d like to see data showing that there is enough demand to justify additional sports fields and other recreational amenities.
To most of the other speakers, however, the need was obvious.
After the meeting, Councilman Bill Rodman said he was impressed by the showing of park supporters, saying “we’re certainly hearing an overwhelming support from the people who are talking.”
If the council votes in early May to put the bond and property tax on the ballot, Rodman said, “then it’s up to the folks to make their cases. This is not our referendum.”