The Independent examines Scottsdale bond package: Question 3

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

A view of Scottsdale City Hall in downtown Scottsdale. (File photo)

Voters will be asked Tuesday, Nov. 3 to approve a $95.9 million bond proposal the majority of Scottsdale City Council say is necessary to tend to the needs of failing public infrastructure.

The proposed bond package 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 No. 3

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.

Question 3 of the November bond proposal totals $6.87 million and is focused on what city leaders consider “Citywide Technology.” There are three projects within the question:

  • Replace energy control systems at five city buildings. This project totals $1.5 million and will purchase systems to monitor, measure and control electric building loads, heating, air conditioning, ventilation and lighting systems are outdated, no longer compatible with current computer standards and at risk of failure.
  • Improve WiFi in public buildings. This project totals $470,000 and is meant to improve Internet connectivity in Scottsdale’s most heavily used buildings by installing a centrally managed wireless network.
  • Purchase disaster recovery technology infrastructure. This project totals $4.9 million and includes the purchase of software and hardware to prepare for an unexpected loss of the city’s primary data center and critical business operation technologies.

Joanne “Copper” Phillips, who served on the now-disbanded Scottsdale bond task force, says the tech upgrades within Question No. 3 are better suited for General Fund allocations rather than issuing bonds.

Joanne Phillips

Joanne Phillips

“The cost of the energy control systems at the five sites is $1.5 million and seems to be more of a maintenance issue than a bond issue,” she said Sept. 29 in a written response to e-mailed questions.

“It is updating systems that have to do with building operations, a typical General Fund expenditure that could be put on a scheduled list of one to two buildings per year until done. The same is true for the improved Wi-Fi, costing $470,000. This, too seems more of a typical General Fund expense, easily scheduled over the course of two years.”

Ms. Phillips says the same holds true for the disaster software sought by city leaders.

“The disaster recovery technology infrastructure is not actually infrastructure in the usual sense,” she said.

“It is the hardware and software for emergency backup. Given that the bond will be paid for over 20 years, this technology will be obsolete in less than half that time but we’ll still be paying for it years to come.  Again, this appears to be an equipment expense more appropriate for General Fund allocations.”

Ms. Phillips says some of the projects are legitimate municipal needs.

“Inefficient, old environmental systems wind up costing us more, especially if they are incompatible with new technology and becoming obsolete in the marketplace,” she said. “That means parts cannot be found and a patchwork system of repairs is initiated-bad for appropriately maintaining equipment and people!”

Ms. Phillips says she is leaning toward a ‘no’ vote this November on Question No. 3 of the bond package.

“Residents should be mindful of the reality of the needs, but also of which type of funding that may be most appropriate to pay for them,” she said pointing out these projects were not a part of the 2012 task force discussions. “None of these items is so large that the General Fund cannot handle them over the course of two to three years, if the council carefully budgets funds. I guess the real question has to do with the council’s and city’s budget priorities.”

Councilman Guy Phillips echoes the sentiment that proper budgeting can tackle the majority of projects proposed in Question No. 3 of the proposed bond package.

Guy Phillips

Guy Phillips

“The first two items can be easily done through the course of business and the disaster recovery technology infrastructure is vague at best,” he said in a Sept. 29 written response to e-mailed questions. “Does this mean a new building to house servers?

Also, technology is constantly changing so putting outdated technology on your property tax for 20 years is ridiculous.”

Councilman Phillips calls the projects “obvious wants by staff.”

“I doubt any citizen was saying we need to replace A/C controls in five public buildings,” he pointed out.

“This should be in the public works budget and it’s their fault for not budgeting for it in the past. In fact they could easily do it from their contingency budget if its so direly needed. This bond is a ruse to free up future general fund money to pay for the debt service when council votes for the Desert Discovery Center.”

Debates scheduled

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

The forums will be held at the following locations:

  • From 6:30 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 30 at St. Patrick’s Catholic Community, 10815 N. 84th St.
  • 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.

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

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