Scottsdale Financial Crunch

Opinion by Alex McLaren.

In regard to your latest opinion, I offer the following.

The cost estimates for the projects that are part of the 2019 Bond Election were prepared in the 2018-time frame and as you noted no one predicted the rampant inflation that is a result of Covid and other governmental spending.   In addition, some of the projects have had scope changes which has increased the costs.

The voters approved three questions and the amounts of the Bonds authorized for these three questions cannot be increased.   Any additional funding to supplement the shortfall needs to come from other sources.  The city sold property in the vicinity of Bell Road and 94th St in an amount of approximately $40 million dollars.  These funds, at the discretion of the Council, have been used to fund shortfalls on certain projects.   General Fund and other sources can be used but this may not necessarily be the best use of the funds.

As you state options for consideration include removing certain projects from the 2019 Program.  This has happened in the past.  For the Bond 2000 program there were projects that were removed because of lack of funds.  One of those projects was Pinnacle Peak Road, Pima to Scottsdale Rd.  Funds for this project were shifted to the Indian Bend Rd, Hayden to Scottsdale Rd.  There were other projects in the Bond 2000 program that were also not completed.

The intent when asking voters to approve projects is to use best efforts to complete all the projects but the best laid plans are often disrupted.

There is a citizens Task Force that is considering developing a financial strategy to protect and preserve Scottsdale’s open spaces and quality of life by identifying and quantifying the unfunded needs of city open spaces, public safety and other needs.  The 0.2% Sales Tax that was approved by voters to purchase land for the Scottsdale Preserve expires in 2025 and the Task Force will be considering making a recommendation to the City Council to ask the voters to consider an extension of this tax to fund projects that enhance Open Space, quality of life projects and public safety projects.

My strong recommendation is that if projects are removed from the Bond 2019 program, they be looked at by the Task Force for possible inclusion in their recommendation, if the projects meet their criteria.   This will require coordination between the Bond Oversight Committee and the Task Force.   The City Council has the ultimate responsibility over all these issues and must be involved in all aspects.