County committee backs bond delay

2013-09-21T00:00:00Z 2013-09-25T16:18:07Z County committee backs bond delayBy Joe Ferguson Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

The Pima County Bond Advisory Committee drove another nail in the coffin of next year’s proposed bond election, voting to back County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry’s recommendation to wait another year.

The final say on delaying the proposed $650 million bond election rests with the Board of Supervisors.

If the supervisors sign off on the recommendation next month, this will be the fourth time since 2008 that either the committee, Huckelberry or both have pulled the plug on bond-election plans.

Larry Hecker, chairman of the Pima County Bond Advisory Committee, said the slow economic recovery was partly to blame for the delay.

“I’m obviously disappointed that the economy hasn’t recovered as rapidly and strongly as it could,” Hecker said. “I think it is prudent to wait.”

Property values, which is what the bonds are based on, lag behind the rest of the economic recovery, he noted.

If the bond was put on the November 2014 ballot, Pima County would either have to reduce the size of the total bond amount to roughly $550 million or raise property taxes.

A list of previously vetted projects from two years ago totaled more than $520 million projects, but does not include recently submitted projects like the Jan. 8 memorial.

Waiting another year, Hecker said, will allow more projects to be funded. Cities, towns, nonprofits and Pima County have submitted more than $1.3 billion in projects for the committee to consider funding.

Gary Davidson, another member of the Bond Advisory Committee, said he was disappointed to delay the bond question but conceded the timing is not right to bring it to the voters.

The committee also instructed the county to perform a legal analysis of which projects could be funded with taxpayer dollars.

It is unclear whether it would be legal to fund projects that are privately owned.

For example, the nonprofit running the Loft Cinema on Speedway has asked for funding to expand the theater, but the property remains privately owned.

It is unclear how the county could guarantee long-term access to publicly funded improvements if the project was funded through bond money.

The recommendation will go to the Board of Supervisors next month, Huckelberry said.

Contact reporter Joe Ferguson at jferguson@azstarnet.com or 573-4346. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFerguson.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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