Oro Valley to get budget, water forecasts; Nogales rainbow crosswalk sparks safety concerns

The Oro Valley Town Council will get a pair of briefings this week about subjects that are kinda, sorta important to the community’s future: Budgets and water supply.

The budget picture, painted by the town staff looks OK. It assumes continued 2-5 percent growth in most local revenue sources, no recession and slowing construction toward the end of the decade as developers run out of usable land (at some point soon, we’re going to look into that).

Projections suggest the town’s tax revenues will increase over the next five years from $27.2 million to $30.3 million. Tax revenues and charges for services will be increasing, while state shared revenues are anticipated to shrink by $3 million to $20.5 million. A financial mess caused by Arizona’s new flat tax and universal vouchers for private schools available to anyone, regardless of income, have put a mid-nine-figure hole in the state budget (the precise size is still under debate). 

In total, the town’s general fund will increase from $57.7 million to $61.7 million by fiscal year 2029.

Still, Oro Valley’s reserves will remain relatively stable, falling from $20.6 million to $17.3 million next fiscal year before rebounding to $20.3 million. The University of Arizona’s administrators will note that the reserves are falling but the town is not in structural deficit. That equals 41.3 percent of the general fund this fiscal year to 34 percent of the general fund in 2029.

Oro Valley will be able to add a few new workers under the current budget projections, which assumes wage increases approved after the pandemic remain in effect.

The capital fund, paid for with general fund revenues like local taxes, will shrink from $19.8 million last fiscal year to $2.8 million in 2029. This is part of a 10-year big-ticket capital spending plan that includes a multi-generational community center and a replenishing of the town’s fleet of vehicles.

Pavement preservation remains in effect for the next five years and yours truly is a total holy roller on the subject of keeping up the roads. The cost of not doing it (road resurfacing and street reconstruction) are never worth the short-term savings.

OV’s water picture is a little less rosy but probably requires some digging. It’s not bad. It’s just not great.

The town needs to establish that it has a 100-year ground water supply to sustain its population, allow for future growth and protect homebuyers.

Oro Valley has the water. It’s got 12,899 acre feet per year available for 100 years. It’s just that projected demand in 2034 is for 10,382 acre feet. That’s not a ton of wiggle room to move forward for the next 90 years. These projections don’t count Central Arizona Project water delivery.

So there’s more to work with when planning for the future.

The town’s water department does emphasize in bold print “resources need to be used wisely.”

Laws about rainbows

Meanwhile, the Nogales City Council will discuss a proposal from the Santa Cruz County Democratic Party to paint a “rainbow crosswalk.”

Yeah, there’s nothing like picking a fight in the culture war to animate politics in the border city.

Crosswalks are painted in rainbow colors to show solidarity with the LGBTQ-plus community. 

The issue was brought up last week and tabled by the council over safety concerns, reports the Nogales International.

Turns out, the Arizona Department of Transportation has labeled rainbow crosswalks a potential “safety concern.” The town’s legal firms informed the council that ADOT doesn’t get to dictate what crosswalks look like. However, the town could face liability if someone declares they were distracted by a seven-color crosswalk at the intersection of Morley Avenue and Court Street.

I find this a little odd. “I was gonna stop when I saw a pedestrian crossing at the intersection, but then there was a flash of indigo and I got confused.”

Not even Roy G. Biv himself is allowed to plow down a pedestrian in a crosswalk, no matter the color of the pavement. 

In Mexico (right across the border), crosswalks are vertical stripes not horizontal lines. How will drivers ever figure out what’s what?

In fact, in Mexico the bigger problem is drivers tend not to stop for pedestrians, kinda like Boston. As there is plenty of cross-border traffic this seems to be the bigger safety concern.

The issue will be up for a vote again this week. 

The anti-woke crowd didn’t exactly pack the joint to complain and Mayor Jorge Moldonado came up with a compromise of a rainbow sidewalk. That seems like it would be more demonstrative of support for the LGBT folks among us. 

The council will also discuss a potential city manager evaluation form to judge the work of the city’s top executive.

No copy of the proposed form was included in the council’s agenda packet.

I’m not sure it helps. I’m not sure it hurts. 

Chemicals are forever

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s regional administrator will be in Marana to tout new federal funds for PFAS cleanup in the Tucson watershed.

Martha Guzman will make the trip from San Francisco to join leaders of the Tohono O’odham Nation, staff of the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality and other local leaders working on the contamination plume to discuss additional money available through the 2021 bipartisan infrastructure bill. 

Guzman will address local officials and the press on Thursday at the Marana Continental Reserve Loop Treatment Facility. After her presentation and a Q&A with the media, attendees will be invited to tour the PFAS treatment facility.

This invite-only event smacks a bit of a campaign stop but the local governments have been dealing with poly-fluoroalkyl substances leaking into the water supply from Davis-Monthan Air Force Base and Tucson International Airport. These “forever chemicals” were used as fire retardants, among other industrial applications.

Remediation efforts have required the city of Tucson to work with the EPA, ADEQ, the Air Force and the Tucson Airport Authority, which are all sharing (and have been arguing over) the cost of the effort.

Meanwhile, the EPA is issuing new PFAS standards for groundwater. 

The EPA this month set limits on six PFAS chemicals. Under the Safe Drinking Water Act, limits for contaminants in water is based on the capacity of technology to remove them, rather than seeking a standard limit that research defines as safe. So it’s “get as much of this stuff out as possible,” and not “this level oughta be fine. Trust us (wink, wink).”

Toward this end, the state of Arizona is kicking in $31.2 million and U.S. Rep. Juan Ciscomani has been working to get $2.3 million in federal money for remediation as well.