It has been 17 years and 82 days since the city’s pledge to build the West Branch Library.

This afternoon, March 24, 2015 at 1:30 PM the city council will be meeting in workshop session to receive more information on the proposed Fiscal Year 2016-17 budget. The focus will be on the Capital Improvement Program.

The City of Glendale has posted the Capital Improvement Program (CIP) 2016-2025 on its website.  Here is the link: CIPDRAFT3_24v

The current proposed CIP has no funding from the General Fund for anything other than construction of a parking garage at Westgate. One note: you will see funding for water, sewer and sanitation projects but their bond repayment is not from the General Fund. They are paid from stand alone Enterprise Funds and the Enterprise bonds issued are paid back from the rate payers who use those services. You will also see funding for some street and airport projects but the funding for those does not come from the General Fund either. They are funded from the voter approved, dedicated portion of the sales tax that goes into the Transportation Fund.

The city’s General Fund is used to pay ongoing operating (the largest line item being employee salaries) and maintenance expenses (for city facilities) as well as to pay back bonds that have been issued for the following categories:

  • Fund 1980 – Street/Parking bonds
  • Fund 2140 – Open Space/Trails bonds
  • Fund 2060 – Parks bonds
  • Fund 2160 – Library bonds
  • Fund 2040 – Public Safety bonds
  • Fund 2080 – Government Facilities bonds
  • Fund 2130 – Cultural Facility bonds
  • Fund 2100 – Economic Development bonds
  • Fund 2180 – Flood Control bonds                                                                                              

The major General Fund bond issuance in the draft CIP 2016-2015 is for a parking garage at Westgate. It is Project 68124, Parking garage at Westgate with the following schedule of funding:

  • FY 2016 $  2,404,337
  • FY 2017 $20,000,172
  • FY 2018 $23,999,730
  • TOTAL  $46,404,239

Within the General Fund bond capacity funding are a few, small street projects (about 3), each less than $350,000; $1.6 million to upgrade storm drains; and an upgrade of the police digital communication system for $1.9 million. There is nothing even considered until after 2020 for Open Space/Trails, Parks, Library, Government Facilities, Cultural Facilities or Economic Development. These are all quality-of-life amenities that make a city great. They are the projects that attract new residents to Glendale and new businesses that appreciate the amenities that will help them attract quality employees. All of that is forsaken for a new parking structure at Westgate for over $46 million dollars. Trust me…that price tag will increase over time.

This new parking garage will cost a little under a million dollars annually for utilities and maintenance. A new operating expense will be added to the General Fund. For the past ten years staff was required to show where new money for a new operating expense would come from. The narrative for this expense within this CIP is cursorily dismissed with “Additional O and M will be absorbed within the current operating budget.”

The bottom line is that Glendale still has a structural deficit. To date, former City Manager Fischer and the Director of Finance, Tom Duensing, have used band aids. They have refinanced the city’s debt (done previously and historically when the market is favorable) and they have relied on making the temporary sales tax increase permanent. They have never attacked the real problem – the city is spending more than it takes in while it’s major debt components (construction debt for the arena and ball park and the annual $15 million dollar payment to Ice Arizona for managing the arena) bleeds the city dry.

Until senior management decides to live within its means by cutting General Fund expenses and resolves the construction debt burden and the $15 million annual payment burden we won’t see the city build amenities that can be used by its residents.

Apparently senior management believes there is some debt repayment capacity within the General Fund. What is it being used for? A parking garage at Westgate. Can you imagine what could be done with $46 million dollars? The city could build the West Branch Library, and still have money left over to renovate and upgrade existing parks and build some new parks as well. In other words, that money could be used to upgrade your quality-of-life and attract new business development to Glendale.

Why a parking garage at Westgate now? There is a 2002 contractual obligation with the Arizona Sports and Tourism Authority (I no longer have a copy of the agreement) that requires the city to guarantee 6,000 parking spaces for games. Those spaces have been located within Westgate since the stadium opened. As Westgate’s land is used for new development those 6,000 spaces diminish. However, there is still a great deal of raw land to the east and north within Westgate. The purpose of the Youth Sports fields construction just to the east of the stadium was to relieve any parking spaces lost in Westgate proper. It provides 4,000 to 6,000 overflow parking spaces that still fulfill the agreement’s requirement for parking. Apparently that’s not good enough for the Bidwill’s who have been grousing and pushing for this parking garage for several years. So, the city has caved and will build the parking garage to be completed by the end of 2017. Great for the Bidwills…not so great for the residents of Glendale.

It’s a matter of priorities. It seems the greatest priority is to build a parking garage in Westgate while bonding for another $46 + million dollars and lesser priorities — to be fulfilled someday — are the quality-of-life amenities that Glendale citizens can enjoy.  Is this your priority? If not, what are you going to do about it? Sit back and eat it? Or let your councilmembers know what matters to you?

© Joyce Clark, 2015


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