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Phoenix will ask voters to approve $500M in new bonds

Phoenix leaders are laying the groundwork for an election next year when voters will be asked to approve $500 million in new bonds.

The bonds would be paid for the same way old bonds have been paid — using revenue from the city’s secondary property tax. The current tax rate will not increase if voters approve the half billion in new bonds. 

Cartwright School District Superintendent LeeAnn Aguilar-Lawlor is vice chair of the GO (general obligation) Bond Executive Committee, which will oversee community involvement. That means asking residents how they think the money should be spent.

“And when it comes to recommendations, everybody will feel very fulfilled and excited about getting behind the bond,” Aguilar-Lawlor said.

“The idea of the engagement in all different vehicles and language to bring residents in, I think is going to be really critical to the process as well,” Sharon Harper, chair of the executive committee, told the city council Tuesday.

Councilman Jim Waring expressed concern about voting to pursue the $500 million without having a plan for how to spend the money. “That just makes me a little uncomfortable, I hope for obvious reasons, I’m not sure what I’d tell voters if I’m knocking on a door and they said, ‘So, what’s in it?’ ‘I don’t know, but I know we’re doing it.’”

City Manager Jeff Barton described Tuesday’s vote as the first step in a lengthy process.

“The first step for this now for us now is really one, getting everyone excited about having a bond program after sixteen years,” he said. “I think the other thing we’re trying to set the table for today is pitching the idea of scope and size, and why we are setting this at $500 million because we’re trying to have our tax rate be at a certain level and not to put additional pressure on our resident and but also not to put additional pressure on us as a city.”

Past bonds have paid for police and fire stations, libraries and parks. Community meetings will take place this fall and the executive committee will present spending recommendations to the council, which is expected to vote on bond priorities in January. An election will take place in November 2023.

As a senior field correspondent, Christina Estes focuses on stories that impact our economy, your wallet and public policy.