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Joyce Clark Unfiltered

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Pocket #4 contains Municipal Property Corporation (MPC) Bond debt of $29,496,137. It totals 33% of Glendale’s debt for this year.  According to bdu-4-pocket-khaki-tan-jacket-100-ripstop-cotton[1]the latest Glendale Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) of 2013, the overall total of MPC debt is $1,020,889,000.

So far we’ve examined the contents of three pockets: Pocket #1, Enterprise Fund debt; Pocket #2, HURF and Transportation Bond debt; and Pocket #3, G.O. Bond debt.  These revenues come from specific sources; either customer utility bills, or State Shared revenue, or a dedicated transportation sales tax or secondary property tax.

The uses of monies from Pockets #1 and #2 are regulated and can only be used for utilities, or streets or transportation projects. Pocket #3 is regulated as to the amount of money it may acquire but the stipulations for revenue use are very broad and leave room for council decisions that can be political.

As was identified in the last blog, the state had, by statute, limited the amount of G.O. Bond debt any city could issue. Two categories of G.O. bond debt were created, restricting the amount of bond issuance to two categories: one of 6% of assessed secondary property value and another of 20% of assessed secondary property value.

The Municipal Property Corporation, however, was born as a means by which any city can circumvent the state imposed G.O. debt restrictions and allow the issuance of more municipal debt. Cities throughout the state have created MPCs…from Sierra Vista to Surprise. The earliest reference I could find to Glendale’s MPC is December of 1985.

There is no comprehensive definition in Arizona’s Revised Statutes for an MPC. Generally all are 501(C) (3) s, commonly known as non-profits. The bonds they issue are repaid by a city’s General Fund’s excise (sales tax) revenue. Technically, the bonds issued by a municipal corporation are not considered debts of the city, according to the state revenue department. They are not constrained by the same revenue and expenditure limits as that of G.O. bonds by which cities must abide.

Bonds issued by an MPC are not a debt owed by a city. If they default, a city is not legally bound to pay them with its general tax revenues. But realistically a city does have to make sure the debt is repaid. A city could not allow its MPC’s bonds to default, especially if MPC debt created assets like a water system or an airport. Although it’s not the debt of a city and is a debt of the MPC, any city would be obligated to pay it.

Since there are no restrictions on the amount of MPC debt a city may issue, it’s an area that can quickly lead to financial trouble as it has in Glendale’s case. Glendale’s long held, council adopted policy on excise (sales tax) funded debtstates that debt service will not exceed 10% of the 5-year average of the General Fund Groups’ ongoing revenue.Glendale is not in compliance with its own 10% policy and hasn’t been for several years. The money that goes into this pocket is not enough to cover what has to be paid out of this pocket. There isn’t a pocket large enough to hold what Glendale needs to pay out of it.

These bogs were offered to provide a better understanding of Glendale’s debt structure — where the money comes from and how it is used. In the next two blogs we’ll explore the “why” of some debt that was issued and lastly, are there solutions to Glendale’s debt. The answers may not be pretty.

© Joyce Clark, 2014

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This site contains copyrighted material the use of which is in accordance with Title 17 U.S. C., Section 107. The material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democratic, scientific and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Section 107 of the US Copyright Law and who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information go to http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use,’ you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

So far we’ve examined the contents of two pockets: Pocket #1, Enterprise Fund debt and Pocket #2, HURF and Transportation Bond debt. Their bdu-4-pocket-khaki-tan-jacket-100-ripstop-cotton[1]revenues come from specific sources; customer utility bills, State Shared revenue and a dedicated transportation sales tax. The uses of these monies are regulated and can only be used for utilities, streets and transportation projects.

Pocket #3 is different. The source of money that goes into this pocket is identified but the restrictions for the use of the money are petty general. In Pocket #3 is Glendale’s General Obligation (G.O.) Bond debt for this Fiscal Year of $22,729,785. This bond debt is 26% of this year’s total debt. The total overall G.O. Bond debt is $163,310,000.

G.O. bonds are direct and general obligations of the city. Glendale uses G.O. bonds to fund many large-scale projects in its Capital Improvement Program. It does NOT use G.O. bonds to pay for water, sewer, sanitation, landfill, many transportation related projects and professional sports-related facilities such as Jobing.com Arena and Camelback Ranch.

Capital Improvement projects are the infrastructure that all cities must have to provide essential, quality of life services to current and future residents, businesses and visitors. They also prevent the deterioration of the city’s existing infrastructure, and respond to anticipated future growth of the city. Capital Improvement projects can be almost anything as the list below demonstrates and this list is by no means complete:

  • fire and police stations
  • libraries, court facilities and office buildings
  • parks, trails, open space, pools, recreation centers and other related facilities
  • landscape beautification projects
  • computer software and hardware systems other than personal computers and printers
  • flood control drainage channels, storm drains and retention basins

Where does the money come from to pay G.O. bond debt? G.O. bonds are backed by “the full faith and credit” of the city. State statutes heavily regulate this form of municipal debt and require that secondary property tax revenue is restricted solely to paying General Obligation (G.O.) debt. G.O. bond issuance must be in compliance with the Arizona Constitutional debt limitation for G.O. bonded indebtedness to 6% or 20% of a city’s total secondary assessed valuation.  G.O. projects in the 20% category are:

  • Water, sewer, storm sewers (flood control facilities) and artificial light when controlled by the municipality
  • Open space preserves, parks, playgrounds and recreational facilities
  • Public safety, law enforcement, fire and emergency services facilities
  • Streets and transportation facilities

G.O. projects in the 6% category are:

    • Economic development
    • Historic preservation and cultural facilities
    • General government facilities
    • Libraries

The list is endless in terms of city infrastructure paid for by G.O. bonds. Here are just a few:

  • Bethany Home Outfall Channel
  • Foothills Library
  • Relocation of Fire Station 151
  • Foothills Recreation & Aquatic Center
  • Field Operations Complex
  • Adult Center Facility

A Capital Improvement project must fit into either the 6% or 20% category. Note that these categories are very broad. Typically city staff will offer city council a list of CIP projects that they deem necessary. It is at this point that the process can, and often does become, subjective and political. City councils can move a lower priority project to the top of the CIP list and bump others down — often resulting in oblivion and extinction for the bumped project.

An illustrative case in point: In 2004 a majority of city council (Mayor Scruggs, Councilmembers Eggleston, Frate and Goulette) approved immediate construction funding for the Foothills Recreation & Aquatic Center. Suddenly it became #1 on the CIP project list that year. As a result the facility became fully funded for construction and opened in 2006.

Another example was that in 2006 the same majority of council stripped the CIP Western Branch Library project of $6 million dollars and diverted those funds to pay a portion of the construction funding for the Regional Public Safety & Training Facility. They made the training facility a priority that year and by removing designated funding for the west library relegated it to oblivion. To this day the library has never been built. These are examples of purely politically driven decisions.

We know where the money comes from for G.O. bond debt. It comes from secondary property tax. The only restriction on issuing G.O. bond debt for CIP projects is that they must fit into either the 6% category or the 20% category. But those categories are merely descriptive. What should be of concern is that CIP project movement up or down on the list by city council is often highly subjective and politically motivated.

At least there is a restriction on the amount of debt that can be issued for G.O. bonds as it is dependent on a specific formula of 6% or 20% of a city’s assessed secondary property valuation. The uses of G.O. bond revenue and the debt it creates has proven to be murky because council makes the final, and often political, decision as to what is funded.

The next blog will tackle Pocket #4. If you consider the use of G.O. bond revenue to be confusing and cloudy, just wait until the discussion of Municipal Property Corporation (MPC) debt.

© Joyce Clark,

2014 FAIR USE NOTICE

This site contains copyrighted material the use of which is in accordance with Title 17 U.S. C., Section 107. The material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democratic, scientific and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Section 107 of the US Copyright Law and who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information go to http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use,’ you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

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