Plan Before You Tax
The Marana Study Session (12/8/20) that covered the draft Parks & Recreation Master Plan 2020-2030 (P&R-Master Plan) was very enlightening from two perspectives; (1) P&R staff and their consultants did a great job gathering community input, developing a comprehensive plan and presenting it to the Town Council Study Session participants and (2) Councilperson Roxanne Ziegler suggested once again that Marana increase the sales tax to pay for the proposed infrastructure in the P&R-Master Plan, including a $36 million Community Center and Aquatic Facility.
This is not the first time in the past year and a half that the Marana has discussed a sales tax increase. On 9/24/2019, the Finance department suggested a permanent half cent sales tax hike to fund tens of millions of dollars for new residential housing infrastructure, to the vocal enthusiastic support of Vice Mayor Post and Councilmember Ziegler. In a follow-up meeting on 10/13/2020, the Mayor declared that he blamed the Town government for putting Marana in a position to need a tax hike, but no action was taken on the tax hike issue itself. On 12/8/2020, Ziegler renewed her support for a sales tax hike, in order to fund the building of a 55,000 sq. ft. Community Center and an Aquatic Facility, as well as the other growth related projects discussed at earlier meetings.
Furthermore, we are in the midst of a pandemic and the associated adverse economic conditions are impacting all Marana residents. We have to question the timing of this sales tax proposal.
First, the P&R-Master Plan is the first of 12 master planning efforts (open space & wildlife conservation, water, wastewater, stormwater, transportation, etc.) identified in the voter-approved Make Marana 2040 General Plan. It would seem prudent to delay any discussion on sales tax increases or other funding schemes until the other master plans are completed and Marana prepares a comprehensive list of all capital projects and prioritizes them according to most important and urgent needs of the community.
Second, once the prioritized comprehensive list of capital projects is developed, Marana should develop a long-term comprehensive financial plan to determine the revenue needs and revenue sources over the long term. This would include any capital outlay and the ongoing operation and maintenance costs for the proposed facilities/infrastructure.
Third, the comprehensive financial plan should consider that capital funding for projects like the Community Center and Aquatic Facility would first come from developer impact fees, grants, zero interest loans and/or private gifts before any Marana internal revenue sources. In addition, the operation and maintenance costs of facilities like the Community Center and Aquatic Center could primarily be supported by user fees and not Marana internal revenue sources. This assures that existing Marana residents are not taking on the full burden of the cost of these facilities.