The race for two positions on the Tempe City Council is coming to a close, yet the four candidates have done little to set themselves apart from their competitors. The property tax rate has emerged as the only significant difference in Tuesday's runoff.
Two candidates vowed to cut the tax rate and the other two have suggested leaving it as is or making more modest cuts.
Candidate Julie Jakubek and Vice Mayor Hut Hutson have called for cutting the rate, currently $1.40 per $100 of assessed valuation. That would translate to a tax increase, as home values have risen since the last time the tax rate was set.
The property taxes will fund park renovations and a variety of other new and routine projects in the city. Hutson and Jakubek say the city can still take on every project it's planned even if the rate is lowered.
Candidates Joel Navarro and Corey Woods say a lower tax rate could slow or stop some planned improvements. They've said they'd consider a lower rate, but that their priority is completing projects.
Tempe's current City Council is split 4-3 to keep the rate the same, so one new council member could result in lowering the rate.
But it would likely take a year for that to play out. The tax rate for the next year will be set in June, while the new council members will take office in July.
A friendly tone has characterized the campaign, as candidates have not criticized one another personally or attacked opposing views. But each has offered one key thing they say they're using the most to lure voters.
Hutson said his four years on the council give him more knowledge than others. He also touts more than 30 years of community involvement that include running several successful campaigns for bond elections. He's an investor and said he uses his financial skills to work on city budget issues.
"I bring a lot of experience and knowledge," Hutson said. "That's the big separator."
Jakubek wants to push for greater neighborhood revitalization efforts. She wants fewer renters, and said more diligent attention to quality of life issues would help that.
"If there's more owner occupancy, it will help out the aesthetics of the neighborhoods, crime prevention and the value of homes," Jakubek said. "It goes on and on that way."
Navarro said he's focusing on neighborhood issues. The city does a good job now, but he said he'd look for fixes to minor problems that affect quality-of-life issues.
"When you're talking neighborhoods, you're talking about everything," he said. "Rentals, traffic, cut-through traffic, parking."
Woods called for more affordable housing. He bought a home for the first time recently and said there's not enough affordable housing for teachers, police and firefighters. Woods said Tempe needs a range of home prices to draw a diversity of races, occupations and economic backgrounds.
"My concern is if you don't have housing for all kinds of people, you begin to lose that diversity," he said.