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Vail Incorporation Town Hall Questions

September 19, 2013

Taxes

Under the assumption that people are referring to property taxes specifically, in Vail we already pay into the Pima County Library District, the Vail Unified School District, and either the Rincon Valley Fire Department or the Corona de Tucson Fire Department.  This is the primary reason why the Town of Vail doesn’t need a property tax – because we already have some property tax based services.  The City of Tucson operates its own fire department which, at least in part, justifies their property tax.

Property taxes are based on the rate and the property value.  When values decline, rates tend to be adjusted upward.  Recently Pima County raised the property tax rate to offset some of the value decline.

Sales tax is paid in every incorporated city and town in Arizona.  Please refer to question 3 below.  Local taxes stay in the community and are used to improve infrastructure, provide security, etc.

  1. What other incorporated or unincorporated entities similar in size to Vail that have either succeeded or failed financially have you studied?  (Failing financially means that the promises of no new taxes could not be kept within the first 10 years.)

Of the last 15 incorporations, not one has implemented a primary property tax and none have failed.

  1. How much are my taxes going up?

Our analysis was based on a “tax neutral” philosophy.  Under this philosophy your taxes would not go up.

  1. How will taxing goods be beneficial to retailers and/or residents?

Retailers can take solace in the fact that a sales tax is going to stay in the community and directly benefit the transportation to their place of business and provide an attractive/safe place for their customers to shop.  Marketing models have shown that Vail is ripe for a regional shopping hub, which actually brings customers from outside the Town limits to shop and leave their money here.   Residents have been leaving their tax dollars in other communities for years; it will be a huge benefit to finally keep that revenue in the town for their direct benefit.

  1. Website says no taxes raised.  Isn’t that misleading?  We will be paying more taxes.

We analyzed and prepared the feasibility analysis based on a “tax neutral” strategy.  That means no new taxes.  It would be up to the new town council to adopt this same philosophy.

  1. How many towns have a primary property tax?  Has the tax burden increased under incorporation?

In Pima County, only one municipality has a property tax:  the City of Tucson.  Sahuarita, Oro Valley, and Marana do not have property taxes.

  1. I’m concerned incorporation will raise my taxes.  Did Sahuarita incorporation raise taxes?

Sahuarita has no property tax.  They did add a 2% sales tax, which every other city and town in Arizona has implemented.

  1. The Vail incorporation proposition seems to peg all revenues to State Shared Revenue sharing.  Are there other sources of revenue available for cities and towns without raising taxes?

Cities and towns have a lot of sources of income available including sales tax, development impact fees/ construction sales tax, regional transportation funds, Regional Transportation Authority, building permit revenue, fees, block grants, etc.  We only used State Shared Revenue simply to remain ultra conservative with the proposed budget.

  1. Are property taxes going to go up?  Mine have already increased due to the Vail schools.  Not happy!

None of the recent town incorporations have included a property tax.  The citizens of Vail would have to vote separately for a property tax. 

  1. The Tucson paper said Oro Valley and Sahuarita had raised taxes within 5 years after incorporation.  When would that happen to Vail? 

Sahuarita, Marana, and Oro Valley do not have primary property taxes.  Without referring to the newspaper article, it’s hard to respond to the question.

Budget

The Citizens for Vail committee did NOT create a Town of Vail budget.  Rather, using a very conservative approach of assuming State Shared Revenues, the committee made some assumptions about expenses to see if incorporation was feasible.  The Town of Vail will have to create a BALANCED BUDGET as soon as the town is formed.  Arizona requires all cities and towns to have a balanced budget.

  1. What is the proposed staffing budget for law enforcement and fire protection?

Fire protection is the responsibility of the fire districts, not the Town of Vail.  There are two fire districts with the proposed boundaries.  This would not change.  Similarly, Oro Valley has two fire districts and Marana as four. 

The County Sheriff’s department currently funds 12 officers in Beat 1, Rincon District of the Sheriff’s Department at a cost of $1.6million.  This beat covers 665 square miles.  The proposed Town of Vail is 35 square miles and we’ve projected a cost of $1.5 million based on active contracted Sherriff services around the state.

  1. How much will it cost to get police coverage from the Sheriff’s department?

This would need to be negotiated prior to July 1, 2014.  The Sheriff has helicopters, SWAT teams, and other assets and services that would not be required in Vail.  Instead, Vail would contract for the “beat” coverage and then pay for additional services on an “a la carte” basis under an Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) with the County.

  1. You say in your website that you are going to “increase police support” in Vail.  First of all we have outstanding police coverage already!  Isn’t it true you’re going to contract for the very same service that we already have?  Isn’t it misleading to people to suggest we’ll have a better police force when we are contracting with the same Pima County Sheriff?

We do have good service from the Sheriff’s department considering our low crime statistics, but the callout rate is increasing and will require more budget from the County to keep up with the growth.   The proposed Town of Vail boundary is in the Pima County Sherriff’s Rincon District includes 12 officers to cover 665 square miles at a cost of $1.6 million.  The proposed Town of Vail boundary is only 35 square miles.  Ideally, we would only pay for the “incremental” sheriff services that we want because the “core” service is already included in our County property taxes.  This is called a “Maintenance of Effort” arrangement.  This will be negotiated by the new Town Council.  However, to be conservative, we estimated a cost of $1.5 million after comparing per capita contracted Sherriff costs in other small Arizona towns.

  1. How many officers will Pima County give for $1.5 million.  Does this include detectives and animal control?  If Vail is to have 11,500 population, they should have at least 35 full time certified officers or the recommended model of 3 officers per 1000 population.

You are correct that some believe that 3 officers per 1,000 are necessary but really it’s a function of density, socio-economics, crime rates, etc.  With our current crime rates, that would be overload for our needs.  (Hopefully we’d never need that ratio!)  In other towns our size, the fully loaded cost per officer is about $100,000.

  1. How does $1.5 million buy us a permanent police presence when the budget does not call for a station?

As a new town we do not recommend “buying” a police force, we recommend “leasing” a force until the Town believes an expansion of services is necessary.  A contract with a police force allows us to specify level of service and require that their overhead costs account for facilities. 

  1. If incorporation is approved, how many City employees will be needed and will they have to be residents of Vail?

As a contract city/town, Vail would only need a small number of employees, mostly to manage the contracts.   Some cities/towns have residency rules but that would be highly unlikely for Vail given its size.  However these decisions would be the responsibilities of the new Town Council.

  1. Are the salaries of Mayor ($1,800) and town manager ($36k) adequate & realistic to run a city?

Most likely the mayor and town council would be volunteers (or paid a stipend per meeting) for a few years.  Some of the other early employees would likely be part time. 

  1. How did you start your police department?  Will there be enough money?

Marana purchased a couple of used police cars, painted them, and hired a couple of police officers.  However we’d recommend to contract police services rather than create our own police force at least into the foreseeable future. 

  1. Was the Tucson Citizen article correct in that all three towns (Marana, Sahuarita, & Oro Valley) all faced insolvency within 5 years due to state shared revenue funding being insufficient?

No city or town in Arizona has ever filed bankruptcy.  With the balanced budget requirement, cities and towns have to adjust expenditures to revenues.  If the Town of Vail chooses to add additional services over the base required services, State Shared Revenues will not be sufficient in the long run so development impact fees, construction sales tax, and other sales taxes will need to be developed over time.  This is how other cities and towns in Arizona started.

  1. Don’t we need a courthouse, mayor?  Where is money going to come from?  Don’t we need lawyer?

Sahuarita started in a dining room and then moved to a trailer.  A mayor will be elected from the members of the town council.  A lawyer would be retained but not hired as an employee.  State Shared Revenues would get Vail started.

  1. How much of $3.2m is free and clear?

All of it.

  1. Under contracted services, all require 3 bids except attorney.  His salary is 5 times that of Town Manager.  Why don’t we bid that out?

Professional Services are procured on a qualifications basis.  Low bid procurement would only take place on materials, construction, and non-professional service vendors.

Economic Development

  1. How do you attract retail to Vail?

Most cities/towns have an economic development function charged with attracting businesses to the area.  You heard this from both Sahuarita and Marana.  Having a unified voice and a business friendly philosophy is critical to attracting retail.

  1. How do you generate more retail in Vail?

Retailers are attracted to the market opportunity.  If you drive through Sahuarita, Arizona, look at the types of businesses in that town.  Because Sahuarita is a bedroom community similar to Vail, that’s what our local economy should support as we get more rooftops.  Once the first couple of retailers come, others will follow.

  1. What are the plans to raise revenues beyond the $3.2 m from shared revenues?  We need more commercial activity in Vail.  Will incorporation help that?

According to both the Greater Vail Chamber and Tucson Chamber of Commerce, there is substantial evidence that incorporation attracts retail.  Retailers like stability, guaranteed public safety, and other municipal amenities.  Both Chambers have endorsed the Vail incorporation effort.

  1. How is a town setup to influence economic development and retail?

First, they have an economic development function.  Second, they set up business friendly policies that are attractive to businesses.   Third, they provide zoning and planning to create business zones.

  1. How does town incorporation impact growth and development?

See above.

  1. We have basically two larger stores (possibly more) for retail sales revenue.  Why does Green Valley keep voting down incorporation if it’s so great an idea?

They have a very different demographic with a lot of volunteers and retirees who have committed their spare time to the community.  They have organized the Green Valley Coordinating Council which is funded by the HOAs (consider that as a property tax) and other sources.  The Green Valley Coordinating Council has received an inordinate share of County funding due to their tireless efforts of calling the County/voting/etc.  The Vail demographics, with a high percentage of residents in the work force, does not support this model of volunteers with significant spare time

  1. Impact of Rosemont Mine to Vail development?

We have not considered Rosemont in our analysis. 

Roads

  1. Who will maintain all roads and the streets in Vail and will the money to pay for it be from taxes?  Also we need left turn lanes at Acacia and Old Vail Middle School.

Other than the pot holes in front of the post office, what “transportation” problems do we have?  Didn’t the County rebuild Camino Loma Alta, Mary Ann Cleveland, Success Dr., S. Pistol Hill Rd., the intersection and traffic light and the I-10 ramp at Colossal Cave?

Congestion: Waiting 20 minutes to reach I-10 because of school traffic and railroad crossings.  Waiting 5 minutes to turn right out of Rancho Del Lago in the morning.  Waiting 10 minutes to turn left at the Walgreens.

Safety:  Crossing two at-grade railroad crossings is a very dangerous accident waiting to happen for school buses.   Emergency Services not being able to cross the railroad for several minutes.

Maintenance:  Public roads in our subdivisions were built 10 years ago and never maintained.  Now they have oxidized, cracked, and crumbled when they should have been maintained on a 4-5 year cycle.

Those projects you mentioned were funded by development impact fees.  These fees would revert to Vail if incorporated.  The I-10 work is done by ADOT and FHWA.  Ironically, Colossal Cave road was scheduled to be rebuilt in 2000 using development impact fees.  Here it is 13 years later and nothing has happened. 

  1. Vail south of the interstate – Will we get fire hydrants?  We have none near S. Hound Dog Rd.  We need paved roads also.

Fire hydrants questions should be directed to your fire service provider.

The roads in your neighborhood are private roads and according to state law cannot be transferred to a municipality until they are brought up to standard.  Two things could happen.  First, they could remain dirt roads.  Second, your neighborhood could pay to upgrade the roads to standard by pooling your money together—and once they meet standard, they could be maintained by the town.  There are a lot of private roads in Vail.

Other

  1. “Your research shows…?  Who did the “research” by company by name?  Can we see the “research?”

The essence of the research is summarized at: http://incorporatevail.org/sites/default/files/uploads/Feasibility%20Study%20Summary.pdf
 

  1. Why are all areas south of Andrada excluded from voting on incorporation?  Did you have to receive authorization from Tucson to include Academy Village, Rincon Desert,  and Spanish Trails Estates?  Do they get a vote?

We selected Andrada as the southern Town of Vail boundary because it aligns with the City of Tucson’s southern boundary and yet it captures the I-10/SR 83 interchange.  Interchanges are important because they tend to bring retail development opportunities.

Assuming you’re asking about Academy Village, Rincon Desert and Spanish Trails Estate because they have Tucson postal addresses, there is no correlation between postal boundaries and municipal boundaries. 

  1. Will you be able to attract more competitive utilities?

Most utilities are regulated monopolies so there is probably little the Town of Vail can do. 

  1. How does incorporation help a town preserve its core values and protect its surroundings?

Values are maintained and protected by electing town council members that represent your interests.  Today, with a large regional government, we have very little impact on our single elected official who lives in Tucson.  With the Town of Vail, there will be seven elected officials and all of them will live in Vail.

  1. Who is financing this initiative?

It is funded 100% by donations.

  1. How is the first town council established?

The Pima County Board of Supervisors selects the first Town Council.  Typically, the Board of Supervisors will appoint members of the incorporation organizing committee or select appointees from a candidate pool through an interview process. 

  1. What redress do we have against developers attempting high density residential building?

The Town of Vail will adopt the existing zoning from the County but create their own zoning rules over time.  It will be within the purview of your elected council to vote on and adopt a policy for growth.  Planning processes have multiple public hearings whereby the public can voice their opinion on the subject of growth.  Additionally, your council members will likely be neighbors that you will have the opportunity to communicate your concerns to.

  1. What guarantees do we have that the promises in the brochure will be kept?

In a democracy, if your elected officials aren’t meeting your expectations, vote them out of office.  With a local government (and fewer voters), each vote will have greater impact than it currently does with the county.

  1. How was the town startup experience for Marana and Sahuarita?  Any lessons for Vail?

Marana filled potholes with “cold patch” asphalt and an old pickup truck.  Sahuarita met in a mobile home for some years.  One lesson learned was to ALWAYS have a financial savings account. 

  1. How are towns better situated to provide local services than a county?

The closer you can provide services, the better you are.  This is a Thomas Jefferson basic principle…that local government is the purest form of government.  Counties are historically a reactive entity and while that works sometimes for very rural areas, a rapidly growing suburban area demands a proactive entity to address issues before they happen.

  1. Is Vail ready for incorporation?

Vail meets all the legal requirements to incorporate and the City of Tucson has waived the “six mile rule” which removes all the legal encumbrances of incorporation.  If Vail had more retail development, Vail would be a more attractive annexation candidate to the City of Tucson.  We believe that NOW is the time.  It’s OUR TOWN, OUR FUTURE!