Milhaven: Setting the Scottsdale bond-program record straight

Six members of Scottsdale City Council agree.

The projects represented in the ballot questions this election are important projects that need to be done, and a bond is the right way to pay for them. The ballot questions include $96 million in critical needs and will cost the average home owner approximately $43 per year.

Councilman Phillips makes arguments against a yes vote and I am compelled to set the record straight. Here are the facts:

Linda Milhaven

Linda Milhaven

Yes.   We have an Unreserved Fund Balance of over $20 million to cover unexpected emergencies.

It is accumulated savings from prior years and represents less than 10 percent of our general fund budget, or to put it another way about two months of operating expenses. We can only spend it once and then it will be gone. If we spend these reserves, we leave ourselves vulnerable.

Yes. We have contingencies in our annual operating budgets.

We only spend what we budget, so we reserve part of our budget for unexpected expenses. In my time on the council, unspent contingencies became surpluses at year-end and were used to cover capital investments the following year. Over the last seven years, since the downturn, we have invested over $40 million in capital.

Yes. The City Council decided not to increase primary property taxes the allowed 2 percent for each of the last five years.

As we went through the worst economic crisis of our lives, we choose to live within our means and cut spending. As the economy rebounds, we sustain these cuts and, in the current year, our expenses are $36 million less than they were at the high.

It is perplexing that Councilman Phillips argues against one tax while advocating for another.

Yes. Departments look at all their needs during the budget process, both operating and long term capital needs. The projects listed in the ballot questions represent projects identified during the budget process that do not have funding.

Bonds have long been an important vehicle for us to build our city.

Many points of pride have been built with bonds including the Indian Bend Wash, the Granite Reef Senior Center, the Arabian and Appaloosa libraries, and the Eldorado and McDowell Mountain Aquatic Centers. We put money aside every year but it isn’t enough to meet all of our needs.

We balance short and long term needs by investing using our annual operating budgets and our bond programs.

In terms of fiscal responsibility, Scottsdale maintains the highest possible rating from the three major national rating agencies. Standard & Poor’s, Fitch Ratings and Moody’s Investors Services affirm their confidence in the city’s financial management and its economic outlook.

Scottsdale is one of a select number of municipalities achieving top ratings from all three. The City Council has a proven track record of fiscal prudence.

We have one of the lowest city sales tax rates in the region and one of the lowest property tax rates. We deliver value to our citizens.

No. This is not about the Desert Discovery Center (DDC). The question of the DDC is a separate conversation.

If the DDC gets done, it will be a tourism project funded by private partners and bed tax. Bed tax is collected from hotel guests and, by law, can only be used for tourism purposes. The General Fund will not be able to fund a DDC regardless of the outcome of this election.

No. We can’t make tourists and developers pay for these projects. While we know that tourists contribute to our economy and pay sales tax, our city treasurer tells us that we have no way to know how much is paid by tourists. In terms of making developers pay, state law restricts what we can demand that developers fund. We may not charge developers for these projects.

Now, let’s talk about the projects themselves.

These projects replace aging assets or address health and safety issues. They include updating and expanding a 40-year-old police station and jail, building or relocating fire stations to improve response times, rebuilding a 40-year old part of Indian Bend Wash and replacing deteriorated streets.

Visit the City’s website to get detailed descriptions and budgets: www.scottsdaleaz.gov/2015-bond.

In the last citizen survey, residents raved about the quality of the services provided by the city of Scottsdale. It is simple. If you believe, as six of your council members believe, that the quality of our community is important and that these projects are important to keep Scottsdale special, vote yes for all 6 questions.

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