Richardson: Tempe city hall keeps digging into taxpayer pockets - East Valley Tribune: Columnists

Richardson: Tempe city hall keeps digging into taxpayer pockets

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Retired Mesa master police officer Bill Richardson lives in the East Valley and can be reached at bill.richardson@cox.net.

Posted: Friday, January 13, 2012 3:59 pm | Updated: 9:37 pm, Sat Jan 14, 2012.

If you're a Tempe taxpayer, you didn't want to read the headline from this week's Tribune: Tempe's next challenge: finding $36M to pay for lake's new dam.

After I read it I could feel City Hall getting ready to pick my pocket again.

The story tells how Tempe has to figure out a way to pay for a new dam on the west end of Town Lake. Tempe may also need $8-$10 million on top of the $36 million for a new dam on the lake's east end. Millions Tempe doesn't have.

Tempe is looking at replacing the current rubber dam with a metal dam, even though they just spent $5 million on a pedestrian bridge/spray system to moisten the rubber dam in order to keep it from drying out and blowing up like the last dam.

Garin Groff reported Tempe "has to figure out how to pay for the project, and whether taxpayers will be on the hook for part or all of the cost." Tempe residents pay one way or another. We always do.

The city reportedly is looking at "leasing or selling more than 100 acres it owns along the lake or holding an election for voter-approved bonds, which are tied to property taxes. Or, it could do some of both." Either way it's more money out of residents' pockets.

According to Tempe Mayor Hugh Hallman, if an election is necessary, it could wait until November 2013. Hallman, who has run Tempe since 2004, leaves office in July.

Tempe residents were just treated to a property tax increase. My property taxes went up a $100 a year. We also just got hit with another water rate increase. My water bill is looking more and more like my electric bill. In 2009, they increased water bills 10 percent. In 2008, the council voted to keep property taxes elevated in order to pay city bills.

Last year, Tempe coerced us to vote for a sales tax increase or suffer cuts in police officers on the beat.

Tempe taxpayers, the gift to city hall that keeps on giving.

The current regime at city hall takes from us to support their free spending habits while other cities in the East Valley spend less and get more bang for the buck.

I pointed out in my May 13, 2011 column that Tempe should spend less, and cut more before raising taxes: "Tempe, population 161,719, has 1,602 employees or 9.9 per 1,000 residents, the most in the East Valley. Mesa, population 439,041, has 8.2; Chandler, population 236,123, 6.6; and Gilbert, population 208,453, has 5.7. Tempe's city council is the highest paid in the East Valley. The part-time mayor makes $54,409 annually and council members get $27,747. Other East Valley mayors and council members average $37,000 and $19,000. Tempe spends $410 per resident for policing - Chandler, $350; Mesa, $321; and Gilbert, $176."

All East Valley cities have a much lower crime rate than Tempe's.

Tempe also pays 33 percent of the mayor and council's salary into the state retirement fund. Tempe chooses to give the part-time council a pension.

Other East Valley cities obviously do fine with less. Why not Tempe?

If Tempe spent per resident what Mesa spends on policing, they'd save taxpayers over $14 million a year. In three years, Tempe could save enough money to pay for a new dam.

Why can't Tempe replicate the staffing and policing cost efficiencies demonstrated by Mesa and other East Valley cities? Forbes Magazine just named Mesa the 7th Safest City in America. Gilbert is consistently named one of nation's safest cities. Chandler was just named the ninth best-run city in America.

Before Tempe takes or even thinks about taking more of our tax dollars they need to cut more and spend less.

I'm tired of being Tempe's sugar daddy whenever they need a "Wall Street" bailout because they can't control spending.

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