The sun. The moon. Earth. Other planets. Sometimes they line up in a way that creates something beautiful.
Politically speaking, that is happening now in Scottsdale.
When measures to aid the Scottsdale Unified School District or the City of Scottsdale are proposed they nearly always increase taxes.
But not this year. Not on November 5th. And that’s a beautiful thing.
Let’s take the school override measure first. It is merely the continuation of an existing measure, not the implementation of a new obligation. Sure, voting the measure down would save property tax payers a few bucks but approving it will not mean more taxes. And ask yourself this: does any great city have a bad public school system? While we don’t subscribe to the notion of a direct correlation between money for schools and excellence, the case being made by school district officials for the necessity of the override is compelling. Teacher pay. Programs. The onslaught of charter and private schools in Scottsdale has challenged the system like never before. Cutting these revenues now, and in light of these challenges, makes little sense. Look, we get the people who say recent discord in the Scottsdale Unified School District has been too high to reward them further. But no one is giving them more money, it is just continuing the existing expenditures with a Yes vote. Consider that the waters have calmed recently too. A district veteran, John Kriekard, was rightly given the Superintendent reins and has done an exemplary job since. Anyone who has met or knows Kriekard recognizes that he is the ultimate public servant and will, unquestionably, be a responsible steward of taxpayer dollars.
While a bit more challenging to explain the tax impact to improve and repair Scottsdale infrastructure, known as Questions 1, 2 & 3 on the fall ballot, is similar to that of the school measure.
According to the Scottsdale City Treasurer, the secondary property tax rate in Scottsdale is falling. That’s for two reasons. The number of property owners and the value of their holdings in Scottsdale is increasing, meaning the share of the average homeowner is going down. Additionally, it’s been two decades since Scottsdale voters authorized a comprehensive bond package. Much of the financing for that $350 million plus package is now being retired, further reducing the tax burden of Scottsdale residents.
So while the $319 million package for the 58 infrastructure projects will increase the secondary property tax rate it is still less than the bonds being retired from the previous measure. That means your secondary property tax rates are likely, if not certainly, to still go down.
Perhaps better than anyone Scottsdale City Councilmembers Littlefield and Whitehead have spoken to this dynamic. You can read their commentaries here.
The alternative of course is to continue to fund infrastructure repair and needs out of the General Fund with a band aid approach that takes money away from public safety and other community needs, intruding on the city’s high quality of life.
What does all of this mean?
While there are no free lunches and there is no question certain property taxes would go down more if both the schools and city votes are defeated, taxpayers should know that they can vote Yes with good confidence their taxes will stay the same if not still go down a bit. Rare is this dynamic. And rare is the opportunity to keep Scottsdale special with compelling improvements rather than start resembling LaGuardia Airport. That’s not a beautiful thing.