Scottsdale councilmen square off at first of three bond debates

Councilman David Smith speaking during the public forum on Sept. 30. (Photo by Melissa Fittro)

Councilman David Smith speaking during the public forum on Sept. 30. (Photo by Melissa Fittro)

Scottsdale City Council members David Smith and Guy Phillips participated in the first of three public forums Wednesday, Sept. 30, addressing the upcoming $95.9 million bond proposal voters will be asked to approve Tuesday, Nov. 3.

The public forum, moderated by Scottsdale Independent Editor Terrance Thornton, was held at St. Patrick’s Catholic Community, 10815 N. 84th St. in Scottsdale.

Councilman Phillips, openly opposing the approval of the bond, believes the city should be paying for these projects –– not the taxpayers.

“I don’t think they’re necessary,” said Councilman Phillips during the debate.

“Had we been fiscally responsible in the past, a lot of these would have already been done. They’re asking you to put this on your property tax when it should have already been done. I think raising your property tax is a direct impact on the middle class and fixed-income people — we’re the people who suffer the most.”

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

  • • 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.

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.

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

Councilman Smith says the return on investment is there and will reap benefits for the everyday Scottsdale resident.

David Smith

David Smith

“There is a return on this investment that is real and measurable,” said Councilman Smith during the forum. “The property taxes are not only the best source, but they are the right source to use on this funding.”

Councilman Smith served as the city treasurer and chief financial officer from October 2009 to July 2013. Prior to that, he served as vice chair of Scottsdale’s citizen budget review commission, according to the city’s website.

The needs on this list are crucial, says Councilman Smith, unlike the unpassed 2013 bond. The last bond election approved by Scottsdale voters was 15 years ago, Independent archives.

“A lot of things on the old bond list were perhaps not critical,” said Councilman Smith. “But these needs, in this particular bond program, you’re looking at things like firemen that are working out of a trailer. The lucky ones are the ones who have a double-wide trailer — that’s not the Scottsdale way.”

The projects that make the bond list are whittled down by the council using input gathered during 2013 public hearings conducted by a Citizens Bond Task Force, city officials contend.

Councilman Phillips says he believes these projects should have been budgeted for in the past, and that General Fund allocations should be used as well. He said the city budget could have included items such as building a fire station.

“From 2008 until now, we spent something like $40 million on stuff to improve our capital improvement projects — that could have been any one number of things,” he said.

Councilman Phillips takes issue with the fact, he says, the city should have held developers of certain projects more accountable.

“120 miles of deteriorated pavement — something that again — the city should have done,” said Councilman Phillips. “In my personal opinion, I think the transportation budget is the slush fund of the city. God only knows how much money they have there and where it goes.”

The council’s ulterior motives, according to Councilman Phillips, is to funnel money into a new project known as the Desert Discovery Center on the McDowell Sonoran Preserve. The council approved 5 to 2 on Sept. 8, to begin identifying a funding source. Councilman Phillips was one of two dissenting votes.

“The discovery center is like $80 million, so where are you getting that money from?” said Councilman Phillips.

Guy Phillips

Guy Phillips

“We’re going to see if we can put $95 million on your property tax and then we won’t have to use General Fund money to build these projects. But what will we do with that other $95 million? They’ll put it to the Desert Discovery Center. I really believe that’s what the whole plan is. If you vote for it, you’re just another waiting accomplice. If you vote for the bonds, you vote for the DDC.”

Councilman Smith says there is no possibility he and other members of city council are in cahoots to build the DDC.

“I would point out the council has not approved this project, all we’ve approved is a study of the project — he knows that, he was there the night we approved it,” said Councilman Smith.

“If it’s $80 million, where are we going to get the money? Well if it’s a reality then we’ll come to you and we’ll ask you for your support. The fact that we want to do these projects to free up $80 million in the General Fund to do the Desert Discovery Center is just the kind of political posturing to get you excited and create distrust in your council members.”

The city has outgrown its staples, like the fire stations and police stations that no longer serve the part of the community they were intended to, said Councilman Smith.

“The police central station is 40-some years old and it’s in desperate need of repair and renovation,” said Councilman Smith. “I’m embarrassed to have to come to voters and have to ask them to support a jail project.”
Councilman Smith said the need is genuine and the projects will positively impact Scottsdale residents in myriad ways.

“Every year this exercise is done, every year we put money into the capital fund,” said Councilman Smith. “The sad truth is it’s just not enough to fund $96 million worth of projects and that’s why we need your help.”

Northeast Valley News Services Editor Melissa Fittro can be e-mailed at mfittro@newszap.com or can be followed on Twitter at twitter.com/melissafittro.

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