Tempe residents value the quality of their lives and have traditionally chosen to invest financially to create and maintain that quality. Because of our willingness as a community to invest in each other, we have a city that provides among the best municipal services. While enjoying these amenities, Tempe remains among the three least expensive Valley cities in which to live and maintains excellent bond ratings.
The phrase "a great place to live, work and play" recognizes what Tempe currently is, but it does not recognize some of the problems the city faces. Among the issues we need to address is the age of our neighborhoods and infrastructure. We are competing with cities that have room to develop less expensive, more modern homes and have the space to attract businesses to build infrastructure. What have we done and what should we do to meet this challenge? We should continue doing what we have always done; make long-range plans, set aside funds to smooth out economic dips, prepare for emergencies, and repair, replace and renovate our community investments.
In order to address such needs, Tempe City Council members Ben Arredondo, Barb Carter, Shana Ellis, and Mark Mitchell recently voted in the majority to maintain our current secondary property tax. In addition, newly elected council members Joel Navarro and Corey Woods agreed during their recent election campaigns that it could be prudent to maintain the existing rate. These decisions were made after much discussion and evaluation. We have to balance our desire to maintain and improve the investment in our community against our ability to save or borrow for identified needs. We believe that the decision to maintain the current property tax rate reflects a responsible choice that will help meet the uncertain economic climate while protecting your municipal investments.
Because of planning completed in 2004, Tempe has a prioritized list of projects that were approved due to their importance to quality of life, safety and economic development. While we have funded some of the projects, more than 36 projects remain unfunded under the current five-year capital improvement program.
For example, the renovation of some of our oldest facilities, the Edna Vihel Center and the Escalante Multi-Generational Center, is unfunded. Likewise, we have cut back on the renovations of aging parks such as Kiwanis and multiple neighborhood parks, causing us to fall behind in needed repairs and upgrades. Enhancements to the police emergency operations radio system are waiting for funds. Increases in transportation and density-related expenses for our police, fire and sanitation departments must be faced.
The maintenance of our current tax rate will allow work on some prioritized projects to protect the quality of life which our residents expect. It will also help us face funding cuts and extra taxes that the state is imposing on municipalities.
United, we can responsibly protect our quality of life and economic investment in Tempe.
About the authors:
Ben Arredondo, Barb Carter, Shana Ellis, Mark Mitchell, Joel Navarro and Corey Woods are members of the Tempe City Council.