Scottsdale residents will begin seeing a persistent push for their support of sales tax increases to fund expansion of the city’s McDowell Sonoran Preserve and bolster police and fire services.
The independent group Protect and Preserve on Tuesday kicked off its campaign for the tax increases.
The group plans to mail information, contact registered voters by phone, erect signs and send its members to speak to community organizations to pitch a proposed 0.15 percentage-point tax increase for the preserve and a 0.10 percentage-point increase for police and fire services.
The increases would mean an additional 25 cents on every $100 in purchases.
Voters on May 18 also will be asked to approve a $500 million bond issue to allow the city to leverage land acquisitions for the preserve backed by the additional future tax revenue.
Preserve tax revenue would help the city purchase some of the 19,000 acres of state trust land needed to reach the goal of a 36,400-acre open-space system and develop nine public areas.
Public safety tax revenue would be used to hire more police officers, buy new police and firefighting equipment, increase enforcement of municipal codes and traffic laws and establish a police unit to battle Internet crime.
Protect and Preserve leaders said the city’s open-space protection effort and the effectiveness of its police and fire operations are closely linked. Between 7,000 and 10,000 new homes could be built in north Scottsdale if the city is unable to preserve the land, bringing a population increase that would put severe strain on already stretched police and fire services, said Jim Hill, chairman of the Police Officers of Scottsdale Association.
Support of the preserve will save Scottsdale from heavy financial burdens of providing additional services that will be necessary if large swaths of open land continue to be developed, said Carla (her legal name), director of the McDowell Sonoran Land Trust, a nonprofit group that helps the city’s preservation program.
Ballot initiatives in the 1990s to expand the planned preserve boundary and fund land purchases won by large majorities, "but we’re not going to take anything for granted," said Art DeCabooter, chairman of the city’s preserve commission.