Vote badges. (Photo: Getty Images/iStockphoto)
Three metro Phoenix cities will ask voters in November to approve more than $630 million in bond requests to pay for future capital projects.
Early voting for the Nov. 3 general election starts on Oct. 7.
Bond proceeds are typically used to fund improvements to roads, parks, water and wastewater systems and other city infrastructure. The bond borrowing is typically paid off over time through secondary property taxes.
- Glendale voters will decide on a $187.9 million bond request.
- Mesa voters will decide on a $100 million transportation bond request.
- Tempe voters will decide on a $349 million bond request.
Some city leaders were initially concerned about referring a bond to voters in a time of economic uncertainty brought on by the new coronavirus pandemic. Gilbert opted to delay a $465 million funding request to improve traffic congestion and roadwork to 2021 because of the health crisis.
Officials in Glendale, Mesa and Tempe pressed forward.
“We know that during downturns we all are afraid to move forward sometimes, and it feels tone deaf to be talking about increasing bond indebtedness when unemployment and economic indicators are horrible,” Mesa Mayor John Giles said in May as the council weighed the bond issue.
However, he noted that the city can decide when it’s the right time to borrow for projects once voters approve bonds.
“Proceeding forward with the election gives us options,” he said.
Here’s a look at how the money will be used.
Glendale’s $187.9 million bond request, dubbed “Glendale Bond 2020,” will be broken into four questions, that voters can approve or reject, based on the type of project.
The first bond question would dedicate $87.2 million to projects in Glendale parks, including improvements at Heroes Regional Park, a splash pad at O’Neil Park and new park restrooms.
The second bond question would earmark $81.5 million for street construction and reconstruction, including improvements to stretches of 59th, 67th and 83rd avenues.
The third bond question would set aside $9.9 million to expand the Glendale Landfill.
Glendale plans to use $9.3 million for storm drain improvements across the city.
The landfill bond would be paid off by fees from landfill customers, according to the city. Property taxes would pay for the others.
But officials say they don’t plan to raise taxes for those bond questions. By not issuing all the bonds at once, the city could stagger each one and use existing tax rates to pay it off, according to the city.
Glendale officials are hosting several informational meetings about the bond both in-person and online. A full schedule of events is online at www.glendaleaz.com/bond2020.
Mesa is asking voters to approve a $100 transportation bond project, called Mesa Moves, to address the city’s aging street infrastructure and to keep up with growth.
If approved, the city expects to be reimbursed $62 million by the Maricopa Association of Governments for its regional projects, bumping the program budget up to $162 million.
Combining the bond and regional funds, Mesa Moves will cover transportation projects in three areas:
- Regional roadway improvements: $97 million.
- Arterial road reconstruction: $45 million.
- Active transportation (biking and walking): $20 million.
The regional roadway improvements include:
- Signal Butte Road from Williams Field to Pecos roads.
- Signal Butte Road from Pecos to Germann roads.
- Broadway Road from Mesa to Stapley drives.
- Ellsworth Road from South City Limits to State Route 24.
- Stapley and University drives intersection.
- Val Vista Drive from Pueblo Avenue to U.S. 60.
- Sossaman and Baseline roads intersection.
- Ray Road Connection to Ellsworth Road.
- Williams Field Road: Ellsworth Road to State Route 24.
- Elliot Road: Sossaman to Ellsworth roads.
- Sossaman Road: Ray to Warner roads.
The annual cost to the average homeowner’s secondary property tax bill will be $25 to $28, according to the city.
The City Council chose to refer the bond to voters this year instead of waiting until 2022 and using existing funds for a handful of projects in the meantime. Once bonds are authorized by voters, the city can decide when to issue them and start projects.
Mesa voters last approved a bond package in 2018. The $196 million program is funding projects for parks, public safety, culture and shared use paths.
Mesa’s last transportation bond package was in 2013. The bond was $79 million, and the annual cost to the median homeowner was $26, according to City Manager Chris Brady.
Tempe hopes to use the bond money to partially fund $525.1 million in capital projects over the next five years. The city still has about $178 million remaining from previous bonds.
The funds would be used to improve existing infrastructure, upgrade park amenities, maintain and rehabilitate city buildings, acquire or build new facilities and improve technology across departments.
The bond request will be broken into five questions:
- Water and sewer improvements: $134 million.
- Street and storm drain improvements: $74 million.
- Public safety: $34 million.
- Park and Community Services improvements: $45 million.
- Municipal infrastructure preservation: $62 million.
Some of the planned projects include $8 million in storm drain improvements throughout the city, a new fire station estimated to cost $9.6 million and 32 park projects, including $3.2 million in park infrastructure and equipment replacement.
City property taxes on all existing property will not increase more than the cost of inflation, which is estimated to be 2.8%, according to Ken Jones, the city’s chief financial officer. However, that amount of taxes owed can increase if a home’s assessed value, which is determined by the Maricopa County Assessor’s Office, goes up.
Though the City Council weighed asking voters for about half the proposed bond amount because they thought it could be a tough sell, the council ultimately felt confident voters would approve the full amount.
Voters have approved five bond requests in the last 20 years.
Reach reporter Paulina Pineda at [email protected] or 480-389-9637. Follow her on Twitter: @paulinapineda22.
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