Scottsdale in a Financial Crunch: What Should They Do?

For all of its fantastic features and generally strong governance, the city of Scottsdale is in a bit of a financial pickle. We outlined it previously here, and you can read about it in full here. In essence, a large spending package that Scottsdale voters approved in 2019 is now running far behind as costs have spiraled far past initial projections.

Why did that happen? It was part preventable and part out of the city’s hands. Inflation spiraled up in a way that nearly no one could have predicted, meaning that initial projections for project costs were rendered irrelevant. An additional aspect was numerous mistaken projections made by the city, seemingly a result of sloppy work.

As it stands, there seems to be a few pathways out of this current mess: either cut some projects off entirely as they stand, pare some down and reduce expectations, or pull into the city’s coffers to see the projects through as initially outlined. And the views of some of the members of Council demonstrate the varying views.

Councilwoman Tammy Caputi expresses the desire to find the money and exemplify the greatness of Scottsdale by seeing these projects through to their original intent. Freshman Councilmember Barry Graham disagrees and says that we don’t need to spend those funds.

So does the city have the capacity to pay out the projects as they stand? According to last year’s financial statements, the city currently has around $600 million in cash and investments. As the Silicon Valley Bank collapse showed, needing to unwind a large amount of bond investments can be a problem these days, but using those funds to deliver on this need won’t be as pressing as a bank run.

But what is the right decision? Hindsight will always be 20/20, but there certainly can be a middle ground; where project spending is reviewed more closely, where the city dips into the cash reserves and continues to fund the more prudently managed projects and cuts off the more reckless ones. But as with anything in politics, nothing is ever so easy. But we hope that the city’s leaders can push through the politics and do what adds the most value to the city.