This column appeared in the Scottsdale Republic this morning.
I am urging Scottsdale voters to vote against all four city bond questions on the November ballot.
While the Citizens Bond Task Force did a very good job in analyzing, organizing and prioritizing the capital needs of the city, the process faltered with the city staff and City Council. Although the council members will say they reduced the total amount of the bond requests, the total is amazingly high considering the weakness of the economic recovery and the frailty of our hope for better economic times.
The rosy economic forecast presented to our council to support this debt request is questionable at best. Considering Scottsdale has the highest per capita debt of any city in Arizona, do we really want to burden ourselves with even higher property taxes to pay for an additional $212 million in debt?
We can’t even know for certain what we would receive for all this debt. The bond task force assigned approximate costs to each project, but you will see only a gross total amount for each question. We don’t know for certain which items within each question would be chosen by the council for completion. That’s because the council has worded the questions so it, not the voters, would determine how much money is spent on each project allowing council members to forgo items favored by the voters in order to divert money to pet projects.
There are worthwhile projects to be found within the ballot questions, but they have been purposefully spread out among all four of the questions in order to make you vote for all of them. This is a classic example of bureaucratic “bait and switch” and should be rejected.
In addition to projects that are not so worthwhile, there are projects that should have been paid for with ongoing general-fund money, not bonded capital. For the last several years, our council has balanced its operating budget not by cutting expenses, but by shortchanging the Capital Improvement Fund. Don’t let them fool you about having cut personnel. The city has the same number of full-time employees today as in 2005.
Before you vote for this tax increase, ask yourselves these questions: Why cannot the taxpayers who will pay for the capital improvements make the decisions as to which ones they want to approve? Why cannot the cost of each item be shown on the ballot so we know how much we are paying? A 5 percent range could still give a reasonable estimate of cost.
Taxpayers, may or may not get the projects for which you actually voted. But make no mistake: You will pay to the tune of almost a quarter of a billion dollars (plus interest) for 25 years.
Kathy Littlefield is chairwoman of Keep Scottsdale Special in Opposition to Questions 1, 2, 3 & 4.