Tax vote funds Mesa road work, public safety - East Valley Tribune: News

Tax vote funds Mesa road work, public safety

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Posted: Friday, October 10, 2008 8:13 pm | Updated: 8:36 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Mesa will be asking for a property tax increase Nov. 4, two years after voters spurned one. The difference is the proposed 2006 tax increase would have been permanent and would have been used to fund the daily maintenance and operation of the city, while the property tax on the current ballot would pay for construction projects and would end eventually.

What the city will be doing on Nov. 4 is asking voters to pay for a $169.2 million loan - in the form of bonds - to pay for replacing aging, outdated equipment and buildings for police and firefighters, and improving various streets around the city.

"This is completely different," Mayor Scott Smith said. "I am not offended asking the voters to pay a property tax when it directly affects property."

The bond issues will appear as Questions 1 and 2 on the ballot alongside elections for president, Congress, state legislators and judges.

So far, there has been no organized opposition to the bond package and no one filed arguments against it for publication in the voter publicity pamphlet.

If approved, the tax, known as a secondary property tax, will cost the owner of a $100,000 house about $19 a year and the owner of a $250,000 house about $47.50 a year, according to the voters pamphlet.

Businesses are taxed at a higher rate, so the owner of a $1 million piece of business property will pay about $437 a year.

The City Council approved a $408 million bond package last year for this year's ballot. But five of the seven current council members were elected this year, so they decided to pare it down.

Smith said the new council wasn't spooked by the 2006 property tax vote that was overwhelmingly defeated by voters, but also didn't believe voters would approve such a high dollar amount.

The economy has changed dramatically since the previous council's 2007 approval of the bond package, he said.

"We didn't feel we could take on this debt in the softening economy," Smith said.

He said the city trimmed the bond package by picking the projects that address the "most critical needs" and enhance economic development.

The police and fire departments have 11 projects that would cost $58.3 million.

One of the projects is to provide more classroom and office space at the police and fire training center at 3260 N. 40th St., near McDowell Road and Val Vista Drive.

Police and firefighters share the driving track and burn tower for training, and each department holds its academies in-service training there.

Assistant police chief Michael Dvorak said the space there is at full capacity and staff members have to share desks.

One of the fire department's projects is to build a fire station at Eighth Street and Alma School Road to ease the overcrowding at a 50-year-old station at University Drive and Alma School Road, according to Capt. Bob Looby, fire spokesman.

The old station is one of the busiest in the nation and houses two engine companies - and twice as many firefighters as it was originally designed to.

Looby said the plan is to move one of the engine companies to the new station, which would improve response times to the northern section of the city.

The package includes 13 street repair and improvement projects at a cost of $110.9 million.

One of the projects is designed to ease the congestion at Gilbert Road and University Drive, which is often at a standstill at peak hours.

Gilbert Road would be widened to six lanes through University, and double turn lanes would be added in all directions.

Another project would be Broadway Road between Sossaman and Hawes roads, which has been a nightmare during rainstorms because it was built by Maricopa County in an inverted crown, meaning the water didn't drain.

The bond package would widen the road and fix the drainage problem.

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