Smoke And Mirrors: The Pima County “Road Repair” Bond Election

Pima County Administrator Charles Huckelberry has released the “Bond Implementation Plan for Proposition 463 Regional Road Reconstruction, Preservation and Repair” to be voted on at the September 4 Board of Supervisors meeting for inclusion on the November ballot.  Most people will not actually read the document and will be bombarded with campaign propaganda:  We’ll fix our roads!  With no tax increase!!  But the document really speaks for itself.  And it’s not all it claims to be.

The stated plan is to raise $430 million in bond money and repair all County paved roads within 10 years.  Unincorporated Pima County gets $166 million of that pie, and since many of their roads are not paved, they will see little of the money going their way.  Here is the County’s map of their roads; red or orange are the  “failed” and “poor” roads targeted, and most of the bond money seems to be going to upscale areas like the Foothills and far East Side.

The bond money will not cover the anticipated $1.5 million in increased maintenance costs in just the first year, and the “ten year plan” actually only covers the first five years, after which another bond election will be necessary.

The County Administrator has been touting that there will be no increase in property taxes with this bond measure.  That is not true.  First, taxes are currently scheduled to go down as existing bonds are paid off.  That won’t happen and the secondary property tax rate will remain the same.  But:  projected “growth in the secondary property tax base” – increased assessments – will raise the rate from between 3.21 percent and 4.68 percent yearly (see Section 5.2).  So: no tax increase but you pay higher taxes.  Smoke and mirrors.

Section 4.2.1 of the ordinance states the “overall goal for road repairs is to fully repair and preserve all 1891 miles of paved County maintained roadways within ten years…repairing the worst of these roads within five years…Approximately 70 percent of the road miles are in failed or poor condition.”

Section 4.2.4 states, however, that ”by implementing the County Road Repair Plan in the first five years, it is anticipated that the County’s share of bond proceeds will be sufficient to repair or reconstruct 560 miles of the worst roads.”

Do the math:  70 percent of 1891 miles is 1324 miles, and 560 miles is just 42 percent of that, less than half, of the roads in “failed or poor conditions.”  And the math, along with common sense, says that another bond election in five years of equal money still won’t get the job done.  Read Charles Huckelberry’s words for yourself to see the smoke and mirrors here.

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Under the leadership of Editor in Chief Huey Freeman, the Editorial Board of the Arizona Daily Independent offers readers an opportunity to comment on current events and the pressing issues of the day. Occasionally, the Board weighs-in on issues of concern for the residents of Arizona and the US.