Hidden Letters to the Editor: Dennis Robbins on Debt

Naturally, I disagree with almost everything Councilman Dennis Robbins says. His column in today’s Scottsdale Republic (reproduced below) is rife with false equivalences. It’s a classic case of the misuse of statistics, like the drunkard using the lamp post for support rather than illumination (apologies to Andrew Lang). But, I wanted you to see it as an example of the mindset of the folks who currently run Scottsdale. Read with a critical eye, and I’ll provide commentary in a day or two.

Citizens’ demand for quality drives Scottsdale’s debt per capita

The Scottsdale Republic’s recent article and follow-up editorial both pointed out that the Scotts­dale debt per capita is one of the rele­vant measures of our city’s financial health. But it is only part of the story. The amount of debt our city carries must be viewed in context with other important financial factors that tell the complete story about our city’s finan­cial health.

First, I want to break down the type of debt for which the city is responsible:

  • 22 percent is general-obligation debt. This is all voter-approved and is paid for by the secondary property-tax assessment.
  • 25 percent is for water, sewer and trash infrastructure that is provided to residential households and businesses. It is paid for by the ratepayers of each service.
  • 34 percent of our debt is for the purchase of the McDowell Sonoran Preserve. This is paid for by the 0.35 percent sales taxes paid at all retail locations in Scottsdale.
  • 17 percent of our debt is for things like SkySong, Giants prac­tice facilities, Museum of the West, WestWorld and TPC projects. This debt is paid for by bed taxes, user fees, leases with the city and some general-fund money.
  • The last 2 percent of debt is for community facility districts. These are paid for by those who live in the dis­tricts.

Much of the debt has been voter­-approved through general-obligation bonds, the preserve tax and our bed taxes. All of the non-voter approved debt has been vetted in a public process and approved by your elected officials on the City Council, who know how important it is to maintain the city’s AAA bond rating and significant bond­ing capacity.

The next logical question to ask is, “How do Scottsdale taxes compare to those of our neighboring communities?” Our property-tax rate is 1.09 per $100 of assessed property value. Scottsdale is seventh-lowest compared to other Val­ley cities. The top three cities are: Phoe­nix at 1.82, Tempe at 1.79 and Glendale at 1.60.

Scottsdale’s retail sales-tax rate is 1.65 percent. We are sixth-lowest in the Valley. The top three are: Glendale at 2.20, Tempe at 2.00 and Phoenix at 2. If you took out our preserve tax of 0.35 percent, we would be the lowest by far in the Valley.

Finally, our residential utility bill is fifth-lowest in the Valley at an average of $78.03 per month. The top three are: Mesa at $96.10, Phoenix at $92.82 and Glendale at $91.26.

My goal serving on the City Council is to make sure the city provides the highest standard of living and best quality of life possible at the lowest possible cost. The same holds true for my business. I want my customers to have the best product possible at the best value available. It may not always be the lowest price, but it is always high quality.

Our citizens have demanded that the city provide services second to none. They have asked for high-quality ame­nities as demonstrated by our public facilities, resorts, businesses and shop­ping. Fulfilling these expectations con­tributes to our debt per capita.

Both the public and private sectors are simply delivering what our citizens say they want and expect.

Dennis Robbins is a member of the Scottsdale City Council.


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