Flagstaff’s City Charter requires that any bond issuance demanding a pledged guarantee of city tax revenues must be submitted to public vote. On Nov. 6, a special Bond Authorization Election will decide two important ballot questions. The Core Services Maintenance Facility Bond (Ballot Question 406) will provide for a new site and building for maintaining city vehicles and support of city services such as snow removal and pothole repair. “Don’t think of a garage,” said City Manager Kevin Burke. “Think about the services that are provided from this location.”
As a result of the city’s growth and the existing facility’s age, it will be relocated from its present downtown location. Instead of new construction, the relocated facility will occupy existing buildings at the new site. According to the city’s website, a larger facility outside of the city proper “will allow for vehicle and equipment repairs to be done in a more efficient and cost effective manner,” and result in better response times for city services including fire, police, trash collection, and snow plowing. The cost of the new facility will be offset by the sale of the existing property and other city holdings, such as a 22-acre portion of McAllister Ranch located on West Route 66. Additional revenue will come from solid waste fees. Solid waste fees had been eliminated after the 2010 election, but would need to be reinstated, according to Burke. Reinstatement of the fees, however, will not affect trash collection bills for residents.
Burke also noted that there are no anticipated hikes in tax rates for the city. “Remember,” he said, “there are three parts to taxes; the assessed value of your property, multiplied by the tax rate, and the resulting levy, or tax paid.” The City Council has pledged not to change the tax rate to pay for the bond. Instead, as property values increase and decrease over the finance period, the city would hold the current tax rate flat, but would take advantage of property value increase. “These would require saving in years where revenues were higher than anticipated and spending those savings when it is lower than expected,” said Burke.
A second ballot question will provide for forest maintenance and protection of water supplies. The Forest Health and Water Supply Protection Project (Ballot Question 406) will provide for protection of forestlands and treatment of watershed areas. According to Mark Brehl, wildland fire leadworker, the after effects of the 2010 Schultz Fire “served as an eye opener.” He added, “The flood severity following the fire far exceeded what was thought to be possible. The cost of Schultz Fire rehab and recovery efforts are now more than triple the cost of fighting the fire.”
The solution, going forward, according to Brehl, is regular forest maintenance. Forest policies of the past century have led to deteriorated and dangerous conditions in many forests in the West and Southwest. Those conditions “are the result of decades of forest activities,” said Paul Summerfelt, wildland fire management officer in Flagstaff. This includes legislative actions, funding priorities, overcrowding of forests, and climate change that have led “since the mid 1980s to an escalating trend in wildfire size, severity, cost, risk, and damage both during and after a fire.” The widespread and devastating summer fires in Colorado are a case in point. Insects and disease add to the problem, according to Brehl. “Active forest management is necessary to restore the natural structure function and process of our forests” and to ensure that communities are protected.
Ballot Question 406 also addresses clean up and treatment of watershed areas and flood prevention for Lake Mary Reservoir and Rio de Flag. Funds from the bond will allow for treatment of U.S. Forest Service lands outside of Flagstaff and will augment the work of the U.S. Forest Service. Brehl notes that following the Shultz fire, no new federal funding was allocated to address wildfire and flood hazards. If areas needing treatment are not maintained,” said Brehl, “it’s only a matter of time before these areas burn.” FBN
Flagstaff Voters can get more information on the special election and these bond issues at www.flagstaff.az.gov.