Scottsdale City Council likely to pursue $99M bond proposal

Scottsdale City Hall is at 3939 E. Drinkwater Blvd. (File Photo)

Scottsdale City Hall is at 3939 E. Drinkwater Blvd. (File Photo)

Scottsdale voters can likely expect a 21-project bond measure on the 2015 November ballot, members of city council say.

The $98 to $99 million general obligation bond proposal will likely be broken down into six questions with major projects including the creation of a north Scottsdale fire station, upgrade to chemical treatment systems and extensive repair and rehabilitation of 140 miles of deteriorated pavement along Scottsdale thoroughfares.

City officials say the 2015 election will come at a cost of $500,000 and will be held Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2015.

Scottdale City Council held a work study discussion April 21 at City Hall, 3939 E. Drinkwater Blvd., on the possibility of pursuing some kind of a general obligation bond program in either this or next calendar year.

“Official action was not taken; however, there was a consensus among six of us — all but Councilman Phillips — that we would move forward with a bond measure this November,” said Scottsdale Councilwoman Virginia Korte in an April 22 phone interview.

City staff had drafted a potential general obligation bond program that listed 34 projects valued at approximately $172 million. Scottsdale City Council, however, whittled it down to size due to community concerns over municipal spending.

In 2013, Scottsdale voters rejected both the proposed $212.1 million bond package and franchise agreement with EPCOR Water Arizona Inc. and Chaparral City Water Company.

That bond package included 39 projects presented in four categories: Parks, libraries and community services; public safety; neighborhood flood control; and transportation and streets.

Several council members blame a divided — and somewhat lackadaisical — council for failing to convince the public that passing the bond would have been in the city’s best interest.

Guy Phillips

Guy Phillips

This time around, they are eager to build a consensus on a new bond measure, but that consensus remains elusive as Scottsdle Councilman Guy Phillips says he still has concerns about real intentions of bond dollars to be pursued.

“They reduced it down to $100 million, which is amazing. Just two weeks ago it was $180 million,” he said in an April 22 phone interview. “All of this stuff, though, we are already doing. If we are going to have these included in a five-year budget then what is this money for?”

Councilman Phillips says he has concerns bond dollars will be used to free up money to provide dollars for other projects.

“None of this is really going to improve the infrastructure. Some of it is maintaining it but we are going to do that anyway,” he said. “But I do have to hand it to council — they did get it lower. The lower they get it, that will be the best.”

The city of Scottsdale today carries $619 million in outstanding general obligation bonds, of which $331 million is supported by preserve sales taxes and with $288 million supported by property taxes, according to Scottsdale Finance Director Lee Guillory.

The city has about $3.5 billion in assets, according to numbers reported last month by city staff.

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.

Councilwoman Korte says Scottsdale City Council got the list down to 21 projects through a rating system voted upon individually by each member.

“The first 16 projects were really sorted out by the average of the council members ratings,” she said. “It proved to be a really good process. There are no frills here. These are all must-haves. We are not going to build a dog park along Thompson Peak — that is not necessary. But a flood control project at Indian Bend Road and Lincoln Drive is.”

Councilman Phillips argues while infrastructure needs are apparent and justified, some of the projects proposed already appeared on other ballot measures over the past decade — some were built while others were not, he says.

“We can go ahead and issue those bonds already, so why aren’t we?” he asked. “When you do things like that you’re telling voters that  because you approved it doesn’t mean it’s going to be built.”

Councilwoman Korte contends the projects are based on needs identified by members of council.

“There are all basic things that we need to improve and invest in to continue to run a world-class city,” she pointed out.  “I am optimistic because we have six council members with strong consensus to move forward. I believe that this is fiscally responsible at $100 million dollars and they are all projects that are critical to our city.”

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

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