As a new Councilmember in 2018, I dug into the enormous 500+ page contract we had inherited for our Town golf courses that were losing an average of $2 million a year. By doing this, we were able to change operators for a more competitive bid, change our golf model from a country club model to a municipal model with more outside play, and bring in resident participation from those who live around the golf courses.
Today, instead of Town golf requiring a taxpayer subsidy that was greater than all of the public courses in Arizona combined, we turned Oro Valley golf into an operating success. Our Tennis and restaurant operations have also gone from an operational subsidy to operating in the black.
In order to provide more equality in tax benefits, we changed the half-cent sales tax (20% of our sales taxes) that was designated only to golf and the community center to be for any parks and recreation. With the money that used to go straight to golf losses, we are able to invest in building out our parks and recreation system such as Naranja Park, Multi-Use Paths, Golf irrigation, Tennis courts and community center parking with NO new taxes. The money saved from golf will pay for a very low interest (2.3%) $25M bond financing to pay for these improvements. This will provide better equity for our community with the use of their tax dollars and save us money compared to building over time.
We also listened to our residents when they expressed in our Parks and Recreation master plan that the top priority was trails and open space. By working with The Conservation Fund and Oro Valley residents, I was able to work with Council to help preserve 202 acres of Open Space in the Vistoso Trails Nature Preserve, a new nature park for passive recreation that fills a need for Town recreation north of Tangerine Road. This is a win for our community, and it needs Councilmembers who see the potential and are committed to making this a gem for our community.
Oro Valley’s Parks and Recreation system is better than ever, and is being funded with NO new taxes from money that used to be spent on the operational losses from golf.