It has been 18 years and 90 days since the city’s pledge to build the West Branch Library.
On March 15, 2016 the Glendale city council held a Budget Workshop meeting to discuss the Fiscal Year 2016-17 Capital Improvement Plan (CIP). As an aside, Councilmember Chavira arrived at 9:30 AM, a half hour late and offered not one original thought other than to thank staff for their presentations.
This can be a complicated issue but let’s try to break it down. The CIP is Glendale’s plan for future, major infrastructure projects. These are projects that cost more than $50,000 and have a useful life span of at least 5 years. Just a few examples are: fire and police stations, libraries, roads, flood control and the purchase of sanitation trucks to fire engines. It is a ten year plan but only the first five years of the plan have any money attached to the proposed projects because the funding for them has been identified. The last five years of the plan are a wish list and have no money earmarked to support them.
It is a very, very important component of Glendale’s budget and at times projects within it serve political interests. Each councilmember has the opportunity to advocate for a project that will be located within his or her district.
How are CIP projects paid for? Here are the sources to repay bonds issued for CIP project:
- Enterprise Funds are the largest component at 66% and this is because many CIP project are big ticket items related to water, sewer or sanitation;
- next are General Obligation Bonds (GO) at 15% and are repaid through secondary property taxes that flow into the city’s General Fund;
- Highway User Revenue Funds or HURF make up 5%. These funds are state shared revenue and come from the tax you pay on a gallon of gasoline;
- then there is the Transportation Fund of 5%. This fund was born in 2002 when the voters of Glendale approved a small sales tax increase to set aside strictly for transportation related projects;
- Grant funds make up 4%;
- Occasionally the city will pay cash for a project and this makes up 2% as a CIP funding source;
- Lastly are Development Impact Fees (DIF) at 3%. Not going into the weeds too deeply on this, these are assessments that are paid by new construction of homes and commercial buildings. It is highly regulated by the state as to the amount that can be collected and what projects can be funded.
To further complicate the issue the state has divided General Obligation bonds (GO) into two categories: 6% and 20%. 6% GO bonds can be used for economic development, a cultural facility, a government facility and libraries. 20% GO bonds are used for flood control, open space & trails, parks, public safety, streets & parking and water and sewer projects.
Now that you are thoroughly confused, what’s in Glendale’s CIP for Fiscal Year 2016-17, the upcoming fiscal year that starts on July 1, 2016? The big ticket items are Parking Lot P-1 in the amount of $6 million and Parking Lot P-2 in the amount of $10.5 million. These 2 projects will be funded with GO bonds repaid through the city’s General Fund. What are these parking lots? If you recall, the city paid $22 million for land adjacent to the University of Phoenix Stadium to be used for parking necessary to meet the obligations of an agreement between the Arizona Sports & Tourism Authority (AZSTA),the Cardinals and the city. Parking Lot P-1 for $6 million will definitely move forward immediately. Parking Lot P-2 for $10.5 million will only be built if senior staff finds it necessary to completely meet the mandatory number of parking spaces to which the city is obligated to provide.
The two other big ticket CIP projects for FY 2016-17 are the Pyramid Peak Water Treatment Plant improvements for $15.2 million and the Arrowhead Water Reclamation Facility improvements for $25.4 million. These will be funded through Enterprise Fund revenue bonds. Lastly $7 million will be spent for street improvements funded through the Transportation Fund.
To review these are the projects in the Fiscal Year budget of 2016-17 that begins on July 1, 2016:
• Bond Construction Funds will cover $7 million to improve the city’s streets.
• DIF Funds will partially fund the temporary West Branch library in the amount of $600,000+.
• Enterprise Revenue Bonds will pay $15.2 million and $25.4 for water improvements
• GO Bonds will pay for two parking lots, in the amount of $6 million and $10.5 million. That’s it. These are the major infrastructure projects slated for FY 2016-17. There are lesser amounts for the scalloped street program and infill street light program as examples.
Criteria for determining whether a project is eligible for the CIP are extensive. However, there are 3 criteria worthy of mention:
• “Does a project support the city’s goal of ensuring all geographic areas of the city have comparable quality in the types of services that are defined in the Public Facilities section of the General Plan”
• “Does a project prevent the deterioration of the city’s existing infrastructure?”
• “Does a project encourage and sustain quality economic development?”
These criteria are noteworthy in terms of 2 ongoing issues: the Western Area Branch Library and O’Neil pool. In the proposed FY 2016-17 CIP funds are earmarked for a temporary branch library of 7,500 SF to serve south and west Glendale. It is a travesty. Northern Glendale has the Foothills Branch Library ( 34,000 SF) and central Glendale has the Main Library (64,000 SF). Downtown Glendale has the 15,000 SF Velma Teague Branch Library built in 1971, forty four years ago. A 7,500 SF modular building as a temporary library branch serving south and west Glendale does not even come close to meeting, “Does a project support the city’s goal of ensuring all geographic areas of the city have comparable quality…” What a joke. Nor does this temporary building meet “Does a project encourage and sustain quality economic development?”
Currently the area of major, economic development is the Westgate area in west Glendale. Exactly how does a temporary 7,500 SF modular library building (½ the size of Velma Teague, which is SMALL; ¼ the size of Foothills Branch Library; and 1/10 the size of the Main Library) enhance “comparable quality” and “economic development?” Not to mention Heroes Park in west Glendale. It is 88 acres in size with approximately 20 developed acres. The rest of the park is a barren, dirt and weed filled wasteland. How does this park meet those criteria? Have you seen the parks the City of Peoria has recently built? Not only are they numerous they are gorgeous and put Glendale to shame.
Another issue that surfaced was that of O’Neil Pool located at 6500 W. Missouri Avenue. The surrounding square mile is known as the O’Neil Ranch Area. Its population is one of, if not, the densest in the city. There are 2,000 children in that square mile attending William C. Jack Elementary School and Mensendick Middle School. Up until 5 years ago these kids had O’Neil pool as a major recreational opportunity. The pool developed some cracks and leaks and was closed. A Parks & Recreation study was then done to measure the attendance but by that time kids had to be bused to the Rose Lane Pool. Obviously, the recorded attendance was low and was used to justify a staff recommendation that the pool not be repaired and the area be repurposed. Another joke. O’Neil must be repaired and reopened to service those kids. This is not an affluent area of town and has often been ignored. An overwhelming majority of the over 1,300 homes and 7 apartment complexes in the adjacent area do not have swimming pools. The ratio of residential swimming pools is one of the lowest in the city. As city criteria states, “Does the project prevent the deterioration of the city’s existing infrastructure?”
There is one more piece of bad news associated with the CIP. It is not until 2022, 8 more years, that there is GO bond debt capacity for new projects. Yet Tom Duensing, the Assistant City Manager, recently found GO bond debt capacity in the amount of $32 million to buy land and building a parking lot to satisfy the Arizona Cardinals and AZSTA. It’s time he turned to the needs of our residents and found GO bond debt capacity for these much needed projects.
It is incumbent upon the current city council, Mayor Jerry Weiers, Vice Mayor Ian Hugh, and Councilmembers Turner, Tolmachoff, Malnar, Aldama and Chavira to insure that a comparable quality of amenities exist in all parts of our city, including south and west Glendale by building a permanent Western Area Branch Library (overdue for 18+ years), completing the development of Heroes Park (also overdue for 18+ years) and repairing and reopening O’Neil Pool (overdue for 5+ years).
© Joyce Clark, 2016
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