The Independent examines Scottsdale bond package: Question 6

The Civic Center Jail is located in the heart of downtown Scottsdale. (File photo)

The Civic Center Jail is located in the heart of downtown Scottsdale. (File photo)

Scottsdale voters will take to the polls Tuesday, Nov. 3 to decide the fate of a $95.9 million bond the majority of Scottsdale City Council says will pay for infrastructure maintenance and repair, provide new technologies citywide and help cover the costs of public safety facilities.

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 projects 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 6

Question 6 of the November bond proposal totals $11.8 million and is focused on what city leaders consider “Public Safety-Police.” There are two projects within this question:

  • The expansion and renovation of the Civic Center Jail at a cost of $10.1 million that will allow the department a more centralized location and the opportunity for more training activity. The overhaul will create a support system for the department’s high enforcement arrest team, K9 unit, bike support unit and downtown patrol services.
  • The rebuilding of a public safety vehicle training track at a cost of $1.7 million and includes the complete rebuild of the Thomas A. Hontz Training Facility, which supports a variety of driver and safety training for Scottsdale’s Police and Fire departments.

Scottsdale Councilman Guy Phillips isn’t buying it.

Guy Phillips

Guy Phillips

“I remember when this was an issue five years ago and the city never addressed it,” he said in an Oct. 19 written response to e-mailed questions.  “The questions are why are our jails so full when the city says crime is down, and why aren’t we privatizing or sending them to the county jail instead of spending millions to make a bigger jail? Sounds like we anticipating even more crime from the bar district?

These questions need to be addressed before spending millions for a bigger jail.”
Councilman Phillips says the real issue of a need for increased downtown police operations is not being discussed.

“We need to address the reason we need a larger facility and steps to mitigate it before going forward,” he said. “As far as the training facility goes, this should be paid for through other funds, like the public safety budget and public safety grants.”

Scottsdale resident Barry Graham, who is chairman of the “Yes to Scottsdale Bonds 2015” political action committee, says the issuance of debt is acceptable for public safety needs.

Barry Graham

Barry Graham

“Since there are not enough funds in the city’s General Fund to pay for the improvements, using bonds to upgrade the Civic Center Jail is a wise investment because the life of the capital asset matches the term of the bonds,” he explained in an Oct. 20 written response to e-mailed questions.

“It has been 15 years since citizens approved bonds, including funds dedicated to law enforcement. The majority of the funds in Question No. 6 are designated for improvements to the Civic Center Jail, which was built 44 years ago and needs to be made safer and able to operate more efficiently for taxpayers.”

Mr. Graham points out the city does already engage with Maricopa County to handle the influx of arrests occurring in the downtown sector of the city.

“The Civic Center Jail has long been too small for the number of people it often must house,” he said. “As a result, the city has been forced to pay Maricopa County to take in people for which our city has no space. Improving and expanding the jail will prevent these unnecessary expenses and upgrade the facility to allow our police to perform their duties less expensively and more safely.”

Councilman Phillips says it’s only property owners who will be footing the bond bill over the next 20 years.

“No. 1, it is not the public going into debt — it is only the property owners,” he said. “No. 2, why should they be the only ones to pay? Should the elderly on fixed-income have to pay higher taxes because the bar district is out of control? Why not assess the bars for some of the costs?”

The growing need for more space to arrest individuals is a direct correlation to the expansion of the municipality’s entertainment district.

“The expansion of the bar district and nightclub scene is directly related to the increase in crime,” he said. “Why should property owners pay for that? If anything, it means less police on the neighborhoods because they are so busy at the bars.”

Councilman Phillips says it is time for property owners to hold its elected leaders accountable.

“We have already had two bond elections and the voters said ‘no.’ Each time its for different projects. It’s as if the projects are pulled from the city hat and put on a ‘must do’ list in the hopes this time the voters will say ‘yes,’” he said. “I say vote ‘no’ and make the city accountable for its actions and start spending your hard earned tax dollars wisely and properly. We don’t have a funding problem, we have a spending problem.”

Mr. Graham contends the projects within Question No. 6 are meant to keep Scottsdale quality of life and its residents safe.

“Public safety is the city’s highest priority,” he said. “Question No. 6 of the 2015 bond program provides our police officers with the resources to keep our community one of the safest in the Valley.”

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

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