Funding for dam, other projects highlight Tempe bond elections - East Valley Tribune: Tempe

Funding for dam, other projects highlight Tempe bond elections

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Posted: Wednesday, October 17, 2012 5:56 am | Updated: 10:21 am, Wed Oct 17, 2012.

A trio of bond questions have been added by the City of Tempe to its upcoming Nov. 6 general election ballot.

The city is requesting authorization to borrow $29.8 million for public safety efforts, parks improvements and community service and municipal infrastructure preservation,

A set of bond authorizations approved in 2008 totaled $241 million, but several of those bonds have since been paid off, and the city is asking for additional authorization to continue projects outlined in the its budget. The project funds identified by the city include $6.4 million for public safety, $10.5 million for parks improvements and community service and $12.9 million for municipal infrastructure preservation.

The city plans to use the public safety bond to buy new vehicles and equipment, improve facilities and upgrade the radio communication system of the police and fire departments.

Replacement of the Tempe Town Lake dam is the main project to be funded through the category of parks improvements and community service. 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 will need to be paid for if it is not replaced by Dec. 28, 2015. Early this year, the City Council voted to replace the rubber dam with a steel-hinged, gate dam estimated to cost $68.1 million over the next 50 years.

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

The city intends to pay the project debt over time through secondary property taxes, which can only be used to pay off bonds, according to Arizona Law. Revenue from secondary property tax has traditionally fluxuated with the economy and property values in the past, but Tempe changed its collection methods this year in an attempt to better predict the funding available for projects in coming years, said Ken Jones, Tempe’s finance and technology director.

“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 issued property tax ordinance stabilized the amount of property taxes paid to the city, Jones said. This is the first year the city has used the new property tax model, collecting the same amount of property tax last year plus a 2.3 percent increase that reflects inflation. Under the new ordinance, the city cannot collect more than a 3.3 percent increase of its total property value regardless of the inflation rate.

“Prior to the adoption of this policy annual secondary property tax collections were projected to decline from $25 million in fiscal year 2009-10 to $14.5 million in 2011-12; declining further to $11.2 million by FY 2014-15 before property value recovery would begin to have a positive impact on tax collections in 2015-16,” wrote Jones and Tempe City Manager Charles Meyer in the 2011-2012 city budget.

Along with approval of this year’s tax change and the city’s budget, council also decided to allow the two-tenths of a cent sales tax expire in July 2014, resulting in a 3 percent cut for each of the next three years ($5.2 million this year), and made the last change in a three-year plan to cut $14 million from the transportation fund.

On the Nov. 6 ballot, Tempe voters will also see an override for the Tempe Union School District budget and a bond question for the district. The election for Tempe Mayor and Council was conducted in May and will not be on the general election ballot either. Early ballots can be cast at the Tempe Public Library.

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