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How Can Vail Afford a Town?

Some common questions that arise are centered around how a small fledgling community like ours can afford to support itself with all of the financial burdens placed on cities and towns.  All government budgets are stretched thin.  The feasibility study shows that we can make it work. The one caveat to all of the answers is that nobody has any authority to make the decisions until after a successful election and a town council is formed.  Giving the voters the power to decide is part of the mission of incorporation.

Where does the money come from?

We all pay state income taxes, state sales taxes and state gas taxes.  These monies paid in are redistributed back to the incorporated cities and towns throughout the state on a prorated basis according to head count.  Because of headcount, Maricopa County currently receives 65% of these monies. Based on our estimated headcount within the proposed boundaries, the Town of Vail would receive nearly $3.2 million each year (65% of it coming from Maricopa County’s share).  You can see the model budget at incorporatevail.org that describes how this money would be spent.  The level of services that the town council implements would have to be designed to fit within the allotted funds.  Based on our research, we can provide the required services without exceeding this budget.  This is evidenced by the fact that $3.2 million per year is significantly more than Pima County is currently spending in this area.  In other words, if we simply keep the level of services at their current state, we’ll spend less than the $3.2 million that the state is obligated to provide to us. 

In addition, the town is likely to implement a development impact fee which is charged on any new development to help expand and maintain the infrastructure required to support the new development.   Currently, these fees are paid to the county, so, it would not be a new tax.  However, we would be assured that the money gets spent in our own area.

Additionally, the town is likely to implement a sales tax.  We all currently shop in Tucson and pay a sales tax today, so, it would not be a new tax.  We have very little commercial enterprises today, so, this would not be a significant amount.  However, it could provide a source of revenue growth for the town over the years to come. 

Most importantly, there are numerous other sources of funds available to incorporated cities and towns.  We are not relying on them for our budget but they could be a significant help for us to afford other benefits beyond the basics of the town.  Such funds include federal matching programs, RTA funds, grants, and others.

Town Services

The only requirements that a town government has is to provide public safety, maintain the public roads and provide a place for citizens to interact with the town government.  For all of these areas of service, there are several options.

Public Safety – The town would need to manage the size of the police force within the $3.2 million available.  They could hire a complete police force.  Probably, that would not make sense for quite some time.  They could hire a Chief of Police and charge him with managing a contract police force.  That option would require further study.  They could subcontract with Pima County or another town to utilize their police force.  That option makes a lot of sense and would avoid us duplicating resources that are already in place.  The town council would have to negotiate with these entities to get a fair price.  Based on our research, we believe it can be done.

Maintain Public Roads – In past years, Pima County has spent about $240,000 per year on road maintenance within the proposed boundaries.  As an incorporated town, we would receive approximately $688,000 (part of the $3.2 million) as our share of the gas tax.  Clearly, that gives us an opportunity to improve the road maintenance in our area.  Again, the town council would have options.  They could create their own road maintenance department.  Probably, that would not make sense for quite some time.  They could contract with the road maintenance department of the county or other neighboring cities.  They could also contract with a private road maintenance company.  They would need to negotiate contracts that were affordable within the funds available.

Organization

Government Organization – The town council would likely serve for very low or no compensation.  Such an arrangement is quite common among small towns.  The positions that would be contracted and paid for at fair market wages would be a Town Manager and perhaps a part time clerk.  The location could be somebody’s home or an inexpensive rented room.  The proposed budget includes these costs.

Summary

These economic times are the perfect time to consider incorporation.  We would bring $3.2 million into our region without increasing taxes in any way.  That is the reason that the neighboring cities are all cheering us on.  That money would be invested right back into the region by paying for road maintenance and police coverage. 

In summary, $3.2 million does not seem like a lot of money.  However, it is feasible to create a working budget within that amount and it is more money than is currently being spent in our area.  There is no reason not to bring that money into our region.