The Independent examines Scottsdale bond package: Question 1

Renovations at Vista Del Camino are the most costly of items within Question 1 of this fall's nearly $100 million bond proposal in front Scottsdale voters. (Independent Newsmedia/Terrance Thornton)

Renovations at Vista Del Camino Park are the most costly of items within Question 1 of this fall’s nearly $100 million bond proposal in front Scottsdale voters. (Independent Newsmedia/Terrance Thornton)

Scottsdale voters will be asked this fall to decide the fate of a $95.9 million bond proposal the majority of Scottsdale City Council contend is necessary to maintain and repair public infrastructure.

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:

  • From 6 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 1 at Scottsdale Bible Church, 7601 E. Shea Blvd.
  • From 10 to 11:30 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 3 at North Scottsdale Christian Church, 28700 N. Pima Road.

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 bond election is Tuesday, Nov. 3.

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.

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.

Question by question

The Scottsdale Independent, through a six-part series, is providing readers with a breakdown, explanation and commentary on each bond question and its projects each week leading up to the November election day.

Question No. 1 of the Nov. 3 bond proposal totals $31.9 million and is primarily focused on what city officials consider “parks and community facilities.” There are five projects within the question:

  • Renovations to the Vista Del Camino Park. City officials say the $18.5 million project includes improving and upgrading the turf irrigation system, lakes, multi-use paths, park buildings, ramadas and playgrounds.
  • An upgrade to four aquatic facilities’ chemical treatment systems. City officials say this $3.5 million project includes providing on-site chlorine generation systems and ultraviolet treatment that will improve safety at the  facilities by eliminating the need for bulk chemical storage and handling hazardous chemicals.
  • Replacement of failing infrastructure at four city parks. City officials say this $3.4 million project will create buildings that meet American with Disabilities Act requirements, house restrooms, provide storage, and use updated materials and technologies that will help reduce costs, lower water use and save energy.
  • Replacement of outdated irrigation systems. City officials say this $1.9 million project will replace outdated irrigation systems and control technology used in city parks, medians and rights of way, and help reduce costs by lowering water usage and increasing energy efficiency.
  • Sports field lightning improvements. City officials say this $4.6 million project will replace outdated ballfield lighting with effcient lights, reducing costs at Horizon Park, Pima School, Laguna School and Scottsdale Sports Complex.

Joanne “Copper” Phillips, who served on the now-disbanded Scottsdale bond task force, says the projects within Question 1 will improve facilities and save money.

Joanne Phillips

Joanne Phillips

“The annual dollar savings to the operating budget that would be gained by replacing outdated park lights with energy efficient lighting as well as the added safety of new lighting to unlit park areas seemed the only fiscally responsible and community safety decision to be made,” she said.

“The same held true for outdated irrigation systems that operated poorly and inefficiently, enabling reduced water and energy use. The safety factors involved in replacing the existing pool water treatment system with an onsite chlorine generation system was the only logical way to proceed.”

Ms. Phillips says projects proposed in Question 1 are a win-win for the community.

“The deteriorating infrastructure of Vista Del Camino Park was alarming, with patchwork repairs putting a Band-Aid on the problem,” she pointed out.  “Wasting money year after year repairing what needed to be replaced was absurd; the same held for park restrooms and structures. Added to that the non-compliance with ADA at some facilities, putting this on a bond made the most financial sense.

“Having said that, the city must better budget capital improvement funds from the general fund annually to better maintain our investments.”

Ms. Phillips says Question 1 projects are necessary for the city of Scottsdale.

“Many are money and energy savers, with annual operation savings that will pay for themselves over three to five years,” she said. “That is fiscally prudent.  The other items are investments in infrastructure/building inventory that just cannot wait.”

A difference of opinion

Scottsdale Councilman Guy Phillips is against issuing debt to pay for projects he says should have been paid for through General Fund allocations.

Guy Phillips

Guy Phillips

“These proposed projects will eventually be necessary although they are not urgent,” he said. “Like your own private home or garden, they need to be maintained.  However, to claim it is an urgent need is a bit of a stretch.”

Better management of taxpayer dollars should have been maintained in past years, Councilman Phillips says.

“They are necessary only that city facilities eventually need repair or replacement — which a fiscally responsible city should have set aside monies for in the past but failed to do so and now wants you to pay the price!”

Councilman Phillips says each of these projects can and were slated to be done through the capital improvements projects fund. If bonds are approved at the ballot box this November, there are no guarantees the money will go toward these proposed projects.

“The city council will appoint a task force who can decide these are not really necessary and through council vote divert the monies to other projects,” he said of his concerns of a financial bait and switch. “Just like the last two failed property tax bonds, you cannot be sure what you voted for will be done.”

Councilman Phillips contends the specific projects are necessary — but the cost  should not be shouldered by property owners exclusively.

“General Fund taxes are paid by everybody. In fact, 60 percent is generated through tourism,” he explained.

“Their tax dollars help maintain these amenities, which in turn helps Scottsdale retain its ability to remain a destination city. With good, sound fiscal policy we can provide all the services and necessary repairs without raising your personal property tax.”

Councilman Phillips’s message to voters: Don’t volunteer to raise your taxes.

“You’ve already paid once,” he said. “An additional property tax would only free up General Fund money that could be used for ‘special interest’ projects. For the third and final time, just say no!”

Scottsdale Councilman David Smith calls the projects proposed in the Nov. 3 bond package “necessary investments.”

David Smith

David Smith

“Necessary investments are those required for public safety, to protect existing city assets or to comply with new federal, state or local laws,” he said pointing out proposed bond projects foot that bill.

Parks, libraries and senior centers are desirable investments as those projects add to the portfolio of the municipality assets, Councilman Smith explains.

“In many ways, these are investments that make Scottsdale a unique and desirable place to live, work and visit,” he said. “Each of the projects represents a critical need and there are no other sources of money to fund the need.”

Each project proposed has been vetted and recommended for approval by Scottsdale residents.

“Voters need to know the five projects grouped under ‘parks and recreation’ were the most critical needs gleaned from the work of the citizens bond task force, public input, city staff and council,” he said.  “Voters should also be reassured, if they approve this question another group of citizens will be appointed to review the proposed scope and spending of each project before funds are authorized. This new citizen group will remain in place until the projects are completed.”

Voters need to know the proposed bond package is an opportunity to invest in the Scottsdale community, Councilman Smith contends.

“Every property owner accepts responsibility for protecting his/her individual property investment,” he pointed out.

“Likewise, many property owners willingly invest in the assets of their neighborhoods (often through home owner association fees) because they know the quality of their neighborhood contributes to the value of their individual investment.

“Investing in city assets is no different. The responsibility rests with all property owners because city assets, in the aggregate, contribute to all individual property values.”

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

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