Surprise revamps bond strategy in staff proposal

Richard Smith
Independent Newsmedia

For the third straight year Surprise will consider a bond election.

This time, city staff is recommending splitting the bond projects in to as many as three categories with a separate bond vote question for each. That comes in the wake of the narrow downfall of one $63 million bond vote supported by the institution of a secondary property tax in November.

The Surprise Capital Improvement Funding Exploratory Committee was briefed Wednesday evening by city staff on proposed capital improvement projects that may be included a bond election this fall. If all project are included and residents passed all three questions, the bond would cost $81.9 million.

One bond question may contain up to $35 million in public safety projects. Another tops out at $22.9 million for street improvements. The third would fund $24 million in pavement preservation measures.

An artist’s rendering of the proposed public works operations facility included in the failed 2016 $63 million Surprise bond proposal. This $11.8 million project includes $7.2 million in impact fee funding that must be used by Jan. 1, 2020. [File artwork]
“Right after the election we promised to take what we learned from residents during the outreach process for any possible future bond consideration,” City Manager Bob Wingenroth stated in an email. “During the community outreach meetings for the 2016 bond election, residents told us that they wanted the project categories to be broken out into separate ballot questions. Simply put, they wanted more choice. We also heard from a majority of them that they preferred not to bond for recreation projects. We took their message to heart.”

Two recreation projects — a $10 million aquatic facility expansion and a $19.1 million regional recreation complex — polled poorly with residents in surveys before the vote.

Mr. Wingenroth stated that in March the city worked with a consultant to conduct a phone survey to hone in on discovering what needs were most important to residents, and that this 400-person sampling provided scientifically valid data.

“Regarding city services, we learned that reducing traffic congestion, maintaining quality roads, keeping emergency response times low and police training were top priorities for residents.,” Mr. Wingenroth stated. “Based on this information we added a pavement preservation question. By bonding for this item, the city would be able to catch-up on replacement and/or repair of our oldest streets and treat the newer ones to extend their life cycle. The current pavement preservation budget at $4.5 million is not enough to cover the more expensive pavement replacement needs.”

That led to the three categories proposed by staff, with the following details:

  • Proposed Question No. 1: Voters would consider a $35 million public safety bond proposal to: build a Public Safety Evidence & Readiness Center; renovate an existing city facility into a Police Training Facility; acquire land for future Fire Station/Police Substation/Park; build a new Fire Station at Cactus and Litchfield roads; build a new Fire Station along 163rdAvenue, south of Happy Valley Road to replace the current temporary station; and build a Public Works Operations Facility to centralize  operations. The annual cost for a homeowner would be approximately $29 per $100,000 in Limited Property Value.
  • Proposed Question No. 2: Voters would consider a $22.9 million street bond proposal to provide funds to plan, design, construct and improve Waddell, Greenway, Litchfield and Cactus roads. The annual cost for a homeowner would be approximately $19 per $100,000 in Limited Property Value.
  • Proposed Question No. 3: Voters would consider a $24 million street pavement preservation bond proposal to plan, design, construct, replace and improve deteriorated street pavement citywide. The annual cost for a homeowner would be approximately $20 per $100,000 in Limited Property Value

Budget director Jared Askelson stated that while this bond is bigger in total than the one proposed last year by nearly $20 million, this setup lets residents prioritize city needs and decide how much, if any, or a tax increase makes sense based on the categories proposed.

In literature for the 2016 bond election, Surprise used the example of a $200,000 home to quantify the secondary property tax bill. That bond proposal would have added $93 a year in property tax to the $200,000 home, while this proposal, if it remains intact and voters approve all three questions, would mean $136 in secondary property taxes to a $200,000 home.

During discussions for the fiscal year 2018 budget, finance staff mentioned three capital improvement projects that are partially funded by impact fees that must be spent by the end of 2019.

Only one of those, the public works operations facility, is included in this early proposal. It also was in the failed 2016 bond.

“The projects in all three questions were based on priority need and resident input. The Public Works Operations Facility consolidates and centralizes the city’s fleet operations, solid waste management, street operations, and traffic sign and signal operations. It also frees up one of their existing locations, at 134th and Foxfire drives, for the proposed Public Safety Evidence and Readiness Center,” Mr. Askelson stated. “We currently have $7.2 million in impact fees to cover the majority of the approximate $12 million cost to build the facility, so we would only need to bond for the remaining $4.4 million. If we can’t do this before 2020, we lose the $7 million.”

Staff will present the proposed projects to City Council in a May work session. Work sessions are scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. May 2 and 16. All meeting agendas are posted online at least 24 hours ahead of the meeting at www.surpriseaz.gov.

If the council reaches a consensus, a decision on whether to have a bond election would take place during a regular meeting in June. In 2015 the council decided against pursuing a bond.

If approved, Surprise voters would decide on three possible bond questions in a mail-ballot only Special Election on Nov. 7, 2017.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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