Tempe passes dam replacement fund, two other bonds - East Valley Tribune: Tempe

Tempe passes dam replacement fund, two other bonds

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Posted: Tuesday, November 6, 2012 10:09 pm | Updated: 2:10 pm, Wed Nov 7, 2012.

In early results, Tempe voters were passing all three city bonds on the ballot, including $10.5 million to fund a dam replacement in Tempe Town Lake, according to unofficial general election results.

The approved bonds will also ensure that the Tempe Police and Fire Departments will have the equipment and technology they need to communicate with other Valley agencies and that city buildings will have up-to-date air conditioning and heaters.

Tempe had three bond questions on its general election ballot, totaling $29.8 million for parks improvements and community service, public safety efforts and municipal infrastructure preservation.

The parks improvements and community service bond will help fund a new steel-hinged, gate dam, estimated to cost $68.1 million over the next 50 years, to replace the damaged rubber dam in Tempe Town Lake. The rubber dam burst in 2010, and was repaired using a temporary rubber bladder, which was lent to the city by Bridgestone. The cost of that temporary replacement would need to have been paid for if it was not replaced by Dec. 28, 2015. With funding from this year’s bond, the city will avoid additional costs in replacing and maintaining the dam, about $179.2 million over the next 50 years.

The public safety bond allows Tempe to buy new vehicles and equipment, improve facilities and upgrade radio communication sytems of the police and fire departments. The upgrades are all standard maintenance that keeps Tempe departments using the same equipment and technologies as other police and fire departments in the Valley, allowing all the agencies to communicate, city officials said.

Municipal infrastructure preservation includes new cooling and heating systems for city buildings, as well as new lighting, flooring and roofs.

This set of bonds was different from previous bond questions because the amounts needed were more accurately estimated in this years budget, said Ken Jones, Tempe’s finance and technology director. Estimating bond amounts used to be more complicated because revenue from secondary property taxes fluctuated, depending on the economy and property values.

“We only issue the bonds and do the projects when we know we can do it,” Jones said. “We had bond authorizations in the past, but the economy tanked and property values went way down.”

The city issued a property tax ordinance this year that changed collection of secondary property taxes to be the same amount as last year plus a 2.3 percent increase that reflects inflation. However, under the new ordinance, the city cannot collect more than 3.3 percent more than the previous year regardless of inflation.

Without the new ordinance, the city projected collections to decline from the $25 million during 2009-2010 to about $14.5 million this year and $11.2 million during 2014-2015. The new policy stabilized the city’s budget, Jones said.

The last set of bonds, approved in 2008, totaled $241 million.

• Michelle is a senior studying print and multimedia journalism at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. Contact her at (480) 898-6514 or tribintern@evtrib.com

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