By Scottsdale City Councilwoman Kathy Littlefield
On November 5, 2019 Scottsdale Voters will be asked to approve three bond questions totaling $319M to fund capital projects in Scottsdale. Because I am a member of the Council Capital Improvement Plan Subcommittee (along with Councilmembers Klapp and Philips), I have been getting many questions about how this package was put together and what it really means to Scottsdale’s citizens. So, first let’s look at the history.
When the Council Capital Improvement Plan Subcommittee first began considering the bond package on January 10, 2019, the original proposal was for one $730M question with no public input during the development phase of the package. With the help of Councilmember Klapp, I fought for and won the following changes:
- City staff conducted six open house meetings throughout the entire city where the public could review and comment on all of the potential projects. We also opened a city website where citizens could leave the comments and ideas.
- Instead of one question, the bond request would be broken into several questions, thus giving citizens more choice about which projects they want to fund with their property taxes. As a committee we favored three questions and that number was later approved by the Council as a whole.
- The total amount of the bond request was cut from $730M to $319M, leaving only those projects that are most vital to the city as a whole, for which there is no other funding source available, and which will most improve the quality of life of Scottsdale’s citizens. These are also the projects for which the outreach surveys showed the highest approvals by citizens. (There was only one exception to that: one project was added due to an incomplete and somewhat erroneous description during the outreach process. That error has since been rectified.)
The full City Council voted unanimously at our April 15th Council meeting to send the bond request to the November ballot for citizen consideration. The finalized format for the bonds was decided by Council as three questions. They are: Public Safety, Parks and Recreation, and Infrastructure. The total bond request stayed at $319M. So, let’s look at some key facts about the bond questions and the election, itself.
- This will be an all-mail-in ballot election: every registered voter in Scottsdale will be mailed a ballot, and every household with a voter residing there will receive a copy of the information pamphlet. PLEASE DO NOT THROW OUT THE PAMPHLET. It contains the information on the projects in each of the questions. Ballots are to be mailed back to Maricopa County after completion. Postage in included on the envelope.
- Unlike previous bond elections, the ballot does NOT list the individual projects or their individual costs. You can see the actual ballot language on the City website at https://www.scottsdaleaz.gov/Assets/ScottsdaleAZ/Elections/110519ballotlanguage.pdf. I was not happy about this, but the City Clerk has shown me the language for the information pamphlet and it ilists the individual projects and their individual costs. Citizens can also see the details of each project in the bond questions on the city web site at: https://www.scottsdaleaz.gov/construction/unfunded-cip-projects.
One common question regarding the bonds is “Will the bonds increase our property taxes?” Understandably, this is a concern for many people. The answer is Yes and No. If the bonds are approved, the plan for actually selling them is: SLOWLY, and as the current bonds are paid off and retired. Slipping them in slowly as current bonds are paid off helps to keep the cost near current levels. This may result in a small decrease of the City’s portion of your property tax bill over the life of the bonds. The actual amount of the change will depend, of course, on the interest rates and terms the City can obtain in the bond market. Right now the rates are low and Scottsdale’s Triple A rating only enhances our position. At current rates, our costs would be very low, indeed. In government, it doesn’t get better than a $319 million bundle of upgrades for an even swap in cost, or even possibly less! Of course, it is also true that if these bond proposals are defeated in the election, your City property tax bill will decrease even more as bonds continue to be paid off. But then the City will not get – and the citizens will not benefit from – the projects these bonds will pay for.
So the real question you need to ask when considering your vote on the bonds is NOT “if approved, will these bonds change my property tax bill?” Of course it will: no one can expect to get $319M worth of upgrades and new infrastructure for nothing! Rather consider this question: “Will the benefit we, the citizens, receive from these bonds be worth the small cost to fund them?”
I believe the question to that question is “yes”. These bonds include fire and police stations and upgrades to the training facilities for both. It funds new parks and park renovations, a much needed bridge, a dog park, a senior center and an adult care facility, sport facilities upgrades, solar power systems, event space at Civic Center Plaza, better IT equipment and security, and on and on. I believe the quality of life for our citizens will be improved by these projects well beyond the point where the costs are justified. Therefore, I support the passage of all three bond questions for the good of both the City and its citizens.
If you have any questions regarding the bonds, please feel free to email me at: klittlefield@ScottsdaleAZ.gov.
Councilwoman Kathy Littlefield