Scottsdale bond debates to feature opposing council views

Scottsdale City Council meets at the City Hall Kiva Forum, 3939 N. Drinkwater Blvd. (File photo)

Scottsdale City Council meets at the City Hall Kiva Forum, 3939 N. Drinkwater Blvd. (File photo)

Scottsdale voters will be asked this fall to decide the fate of a $95.9 million bond proposal that some city officials contend is necessary to maintain and repair public infrastructure.

The issue is complex and oftentimes confusing, and not everyone on the Scottsdale City Council agrees the proposal is even needed.

Residents will have an opportunity to sort out the details and gain a better understanding of the issue at two public forums planned in October. Scottsdale residents will vote on the bond proposal Tuesday, Nov. 3.

The Scottsdale Independent is sponsoring two debates on the bond pitch in partnership with community organizer Fran Droll and two local churches.

The forums will be held at the following locations:

The event will feature opening statements of both pro and con arguments, a debate between Scottsdale Vice Mayor Linda Milhaven and Councilman Guy Phillips on the merits of the bond program, and a question-and-answer segment.

The city of Scottsdale today carries $619 million in outstanding general obligation bonds, of which $331 million is supported by preserve sales taxes and $288 million supported by property taxes, Independent archives state. The city has about $3.5 billion in assets.

When a general obligation bond is levied, homeowners pick up the tab, known within civic hallways as debt-service, oftentimes through a secondary-property tax. The proposed bond would cost homeowners 11.5 cents per $100 of net assessed valuation used for secondary property tax purposes.

According to the city, an average Scottsdale homeowner living in a home valued at $370,000 would pay an additional $3.50 per month if the bond is approved.

The six proposed bonds to be voted on in November include:

  • Parks and community facilities — $31,900,000.
  • Transportation — $16,540,000.
  • Citywide technology — $6,870,000.
  • Street pavement replacement — $12,500,000.
  • Public safety-fire — $16,350,000.
  • Public safety-police — $11,800,000.

Scottsdale Councilman Guy Phillips says debt should not be issued for these specific projects.

Guy Phillips

Guy Phillips

“These projects can be funded through the general fund capital projects division,” he said in a Sept. 8 written response to e-mailed questions.

When asked what he hopes to accomplish by participating in upcoming debates, he replied, “To inform the voters they are already paying enough taxes and shouldn’t be taxed again.”

Special interests should not be guiding municipal decisions, Councilman Phillips contends.

“It’s a ruse designed to get property owners to tax themselves to free up general fund money for special-interest uses,” he said.

Vice Mayor Milhaven contends the proposed projects included in the bond are necessities.

Linda Milhaven

Linda Milhaven

“The projects are important. We have deteriorating infrastructure that needs to be replaced,” she said in a Sept. 9 phone interview. “It is important that we do that — the bonds are a reliable way to pay for those things.”

She says she feels the average Scottsdale homeowner should expect to pay a nominal amount for infrastructure maintenance.

“Scottsdale, from a property tax perspective, has one of the lowest tax rates in the Valley,” she said. “My taxes last year that I paid to the city of Scottsdale were $409, so the more compelling argument is if you don’t want to do these projects we won’t do these projects.”

Ms. Droll wants to make sure Scottsdale voters are properly informed, regardless of where they stand on the bond issue.

“It is their tax dollars and they should know where the money is going,” she said in a Sept. 8 phone interview. “Whoever wins that is fine with me, I am impartial.”

Ms. Droll, a Scottsdale resident, organizes several local debates every year on ballot measures ranging from referendum votes to candidate elections.

North Scottsdale Christian Church Pastor Scott Rehmann says he is hopeful a good crowd will come out for the forums.

“We make our facility open to those who would like to learn,” he said in a Sept. 8 phone interview. “We host the voting here during the primaries. People need to know what is going on in their government.”

Pastor Rehman says more of the general public should know where tax dollars are being spent by elected leaders.

“I think people need to know where the money is going,” he said. “We are the taxpayers and we are paying for services; we should know where the money is going.”

Northeast Valley Managing Editor Terrance Thornton can be contacted at tthornton@newszap.com

You are encouraged to leave relevant comments but engaging in personal attacks, threats, online bullying or commercial spam will not be allowed. All comments should remain within the bounds of fair play and civility. (You can disagree with others courteously, without being disagreeable.) Feel free to express yourself but keep an open mind toward finding value in what others say. To report abuse or spam, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box.