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Wed, Nov. 13

Chino Valley population grows
Town officials grapple with how to pay for it

With a million new residents moving to Arizona every five years, Town of Chino Valley officials expect a portion of the state's stunning growth will reach their community over the next two decades.

Incorporating baseline population estimates from the Arizona Department of Employment Security and the U.S. Census Bureau into their calculations, Chino Valley Finance Director Linda York and Assistant Town Manager Mark O'Connor recently pieced together a bar graph projecting the town's growth rates in seven five-year increments up to the year 2030.

The chart shows that if Chino Valley maintains its present growth rate of 10 percent per year since 2000, the town's population will balloon from 12,251 in 2005 to 18,376 by 2010.

By 2015, the chart predicts Chino Valley's population will more than double, mushrooming to 27,564 people.

"We all know that things have kind of slowed down a little bit (with the economy), so I wouldn't expect to see a 10 percent growth rate, necessarily, for the next few years," said York, who also made projections at 4, 5 and 7 percent in her analysis. "It all depends on what happens with the residential developments."

Town Manager Bill Pupo said York and O'Connor took the Department of Employment Security's figures and projected them into the future based on building permits and new people moving into the area.

CV's Town Council got a glimpse of these numbers during its one-day retreat Friday at Antelope Hills Golf Course's Old Clubhouse.

"The global effects of the economy that hit Arizona then hit the communities in Arizona, and that's where we've transferred those numbers down to our local level," Pupo said. "Part of the growth in the state is the pressure of growth from Phoenix pushing northward."

Pupo added that more residents are making a daily commute from where they live in the tri-city area to their jobs in Phoenix.

"Now to travel from the middle of Phoenix to Chino Valley is about an hour and 40 minutes, depending how fast you drive and the time of day," he said. "In some cases, you can't get across the Phoenix Valley for that. So more people are finding it desirable to move north and into a milder climate and then commuting back in for work or their arts, culture and entertainment."

While they welcome growth, town officials are concerned that the town's revenues eventually will not support its operating expenses for public services, such as police and fire protection, the library and parks and recreation.

"You need about 100 (town) employees in round figures per 1,000 in population," Pupo said. "We don't have the revenue streams to support expanding our services because one, we don't have the rooftops and, two, we don't have the retail sales."

Officials also are thinking about the inevitable wear and tear on the town's roads, signs, signals and traffic circulation as well as sewer system capacity.

"As it stands right now, we have to rely on sales tax to help us survive through this," Councilman Ron Romley said. "The homebuilding and the impact fees have slowed way down this year."

Virginia Boughton, who has lived in Chino Valley with her husband, John, for five years, said she's unsure about how many residents the town can realistically support.

"I don't know where they're going to put all those people. And if they do, what are they going to do about roads?" Boughton said. "Right now we've got one main artery (Highway 89), and I don't know where they could put another main artery."

In light of these economic concerns, York said each year the town must review its revenues and set firm guidelines for cost recovery from user fees to keep its budget in the black.

Pupo said the only way to put more money into the town treasury is to either raise taxes or expect a handout from the state/federal government or invest in economic development. The town prefers the third method - attracting businesses to increase the sales-tax base.

"You're going to have to invest in infrastructure and roads, and create those economic development opportunities for real businesses to come here," Pupo said.

Pupo and other town officials also are banking on their growing relationship with Arizona State University - which currently has a small presence in Chino Valley with the Morrison Institute - to provide future opportunities for higher education to residents.

In turn, Pupo said, the hope is CV will lure more higher-paying jobs.

"The relationship with ASU is very important because as the community continues to grow, you need quality education," he said.

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