Tempe voters weigh bond issues in tough economy - East Valley Tribune: News

Tempe voters weigh bond issues in tough economy

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Posted: Monday, October 13, 2008 7:07 pm | Updated: 10:08 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

In an election season fraught with economic anxiety, it may seem a bad time for a city to ask voters for anything with a $240 million price tag.

Tempe will soon find out, as the ballot has four bond measures promising improvements to the municipality's public safety infrastructure, water system, road network and parks and recreation facilities.

It is paramount to note that approving these bonds' issuance won't raise residents' taxes a cent, proponents said. Barb Carter, secretary of the bond committee, is confident voters know what they're being asked and won't shoot down the bonds out of anxiety.

"Some people know the cost of things but the value of nothing; our people know the value of things," Carter said.

But recent history can give the bonds' backers reason to worry.

A year ago, voters in the Tempe Union High School District rejected two budget overrides and a bond issue. Those measures are up for approval again, and if all pass a house of average value in the district will see its annual property taxes rise about $67.

Carter hopes people view the requests of the city and district as cooperation ("symbiotic, synergistic") rather than competition.

"We all depend on each other to make a great community," Carter said. "All of these things affect our citizens."

Still, the Tempe City Council was worried enough in June to consider pushing back the bond election to next year. The date was kept in place after a split vote. Carter, then on the council, was among the majority.

Another concern about the bonds has less to do with Mill Avenue than Wall Street.

Because of the credit crunch, many cities across the nation are finding it difficult to sell their municipal bonds.

Arizona Treasurer Dean Martin recently told Bloomberg Television that the federal bailout, already acting to unfreeze the corporate credit markets, must do the same to restore confidence in these securities. Carter said she was relying on the advice of financial experts, who say Treasury bills and municipal bonds remain strong.

But Carter acknowledged the world has changed. "Are they going to buy them at the interest rate we've enjoyed? Maybe not," she said.

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