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County Administrator: A 2015 bond election is the financially responsible choice

Sep 16, 2013 | Read More News
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The financial picture isn’t right for a bond election in 2014, according to an analysis by Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry. none

The property tax base still hasn’t recovered enough to make a bond election prior to 2015 practical, he advised the Bond Advisory Committee in a memo. The tax base is projected to be $7.5 billion in Fiscal Year 2014/15 – that’s more than 23 percent lower than the $9.8 billion of Fiscal Year 2009/10. The forecast does not anticipate an increase in the tax base until Fiscal Year 2015/16.

The County’s conservative debt management principles also play a critical role in the decision. The County has set an aggressive debt repayment schedule, retiring 90 percent of our debt within 11 years. The County also has maintained a voluntary tax rate cap of .81 cents per $100 of valuation, to ensure predictability for taxpayers.

Combined, those two factors have a limiting effect on issuing new debt. In fact, under these promises, no new debt can be issued at all until 2016 anyway, which is why there is little practical effect of waiting another year for the election.

“In a recent survey, we heard from the community about the priorities they see in the region and in their neighborhoods and while we are encouraged by their interest and passion, we also want to make sure we continue to be responsible stewards of public resources and investment,” Huckelberry said.

Working under those parameters, a future election likely will sustain a $550 million general obligation bond issue.

Even if the bond election is put off another year, there is much work to do for the Bond Advisory Committee, since more requests came in from the community than can be accommodated in a bond election. Additionally, several significant projects with economic development potential need to be fleshed out further, which will take more time to develop.

Also, based on survey feedback, Huckelberry suggested that the Committee consider a general obligation bond for road repair, which will require additional time for evaluation. One way to implement that might be to seek $50 million, divvied up for jurisdictions based on assessed valuation, on condition of a funding match from each jurisdiction, to equal $100 million.

“While this level of funding will not resolve the entire backlog of highway maintenance and repairs necessary in our communities, it will demonstrate our priority to make meaningful and timely repairs and improve maintenance of the local highway system,” Huckelberry said.

The Bond Advisory Committee will hold its next public meeting Friday, Sept. 20, starting at 8 a.m. at the Arizona Riverpark Inn, 350 S. Freeway. For more information about Pima County’s bond program, please visit http://webcms.pima.gov/government/bonds/