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Scottsdale Council Looks At Sales Tax To Maintain Preserve And Parks Comments Off on Scottsdale Council Looks At Sales Tax To Maintain Preserve And Parks

Scottsdale residents could vote as soon as November on a plan to continue an existing sales tax at a reduced rate to pay for maintenance at the McDowell Sonoran Preserve, WestWorld and other city parks.

The task force formed to consider the issue shared its findings with the city council Tuesday night.

After speaking to over 1,700 residents, the task force recommended asking the voters to extend the .2% sales tax that ends in 2025 for 30 years at a rate of .15%. That is expected to raise $25 million per year, which would be spent as:

• $5 million per year to address drainage, shade and other critical infrastructure improvements for WestWorld.
• $10.2 million annually would go to improvements to aged Indian Bend Wash parks capital improvements.
• $2.8 million annually would go to city-wide parks and recreation maintenance.
• $3.6 million annually would go to maintaining the McDowell Sonoran Preserve
• $1.4 million annually would go to double the size of the police parks rangers unit to six rangers, plus a sergeant, a real time crime center technician, vehicles and equipment and other related expenses.
• $2 million to remove fire fuel from the parks and for technical rescue.

The current .2% sales tax costs the average home about $4.95 per month, but that number would drop to $3.71 per month at .15%, task force Vice Chair Raoul Zubia said.

Zubia also pointed out that Scottsdale has one of the lowest city sales tax rates in the Valley, behind everyone but Chandler and Gilbert.

If the .15% sales tax is not approved by voters, the city would have to wait until another bond program is approved by voters, look for grant opportunities and look for general fund money while some critical needs identified by the task force would go unfunded.
But many on the council still had unresolved questions at the end of the park meeting, and another work session may take place before they have to vote in June to put the issue on the ballot.

For instance, Council Member Tammy Caputi had some questions about what is currently being spent on maintenance efforts or capital improvements.

“I can’t seem to bring it into a historical context,” she said.
She also wanted to know what would happen to funding the city is already paying if new money gets added to that.
City Treasurer Sonia Andrews pointed out that all the needs that were identified in the presentation are currently not being funded.

“For the park maintenance, for example, yes, we already have a budget for park maintenance, but these are needs the parks department feels are unfunded,” she said. “If we had the available revenues, we would definitely want to fit it in the budget.

“Basically, what we’re saying is, we would like to have $2.8 million more to be able to take care of our parks better because right now with the amount of money we’re getting from the general fund, we’re not keeping up. We have to defer maintenance, and we don’t even have the staffing that we need for all of our parks.”

Council Member Betty Janik said she would like to see what happens if the tax were to produce much more than expected and much lower than budgeted. She was also bothered with the funding formula for payments to WestWorld.

Caputi also wanted to know what happens to the money raised from the existing .15% sales tax that runs through 2034.
“At the end of the day, there is going to be a fund balance that’s fairly significant,” she said.

Andrews responded, “The task force did consider (whether we) can use the fund balance that’s remaining and to be collected for these needs. The first consideration is, if we want to do that, we would have to get voter approval and we can only ask voter approval to allow us to use future collections. We’ve already collected $130 million of which it can only be used for land (purchases) and improvements. It cannot be applied to any of these needs that we talked about so that pot of money is shrinking a lot.

“The $200-plus million is a projection for the next 10 years if we didn’t spent any of that $130 million, assuming we get continued revenue growth and not using any of that money for a land bridge (in the preserve over roads) or any other land acquisition or improvements so there are a lot of assumptions there,” she continued.

Original article can be found here.

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