Chandler slates November bond election SanTan Sun News

Chandler slates November bond election

June 8th, 2021 SanTan Sun News
Chandler slates November bond election
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SANTAN SUN NEWS STAFF

Chandler voters will be asked in November to approve $272 million in new bond authorization for a package of new public projects across the city.

City Council unanimously voted last month to hold a special election on Nov. 2 as it addresses Chandler’s infrastructure needs. 

The requested bond money would be broken into five spending categories: $73 million for parks, $55 million for police, $25 million for fire safety, $86 million for streets and $33 million for public facilities. 

Some of the most expensive items in the bond package could include a $38-million forensic lab for the Chandler Police Department, $11 million for reconstructing the Ray and Dobson roads intersection, a $40-million renovation of Mesquite Groves Park and $15 million for rebuilding two fire stations.

The city spent the last year evaluating Chandler’s needs and determining which projects would require bond financing and which ones could be funded through grants or existing funds.

A citizen-led committee reviewed more than 80 infrastructure projects, valued at $851 million, and gradually whittled down the list to about 50 items.

Other projects recommended by the committee include a $16-million renovation of Folley Park, a $12-million revamp of A.J. Chandler Park, $4.5 million for new fire emergency vehicles, and $2 million for improving Price Road.

According to the city’s calculations, a bond package valued at $272 million would not result in an increase in either primary or secondary property taxes.

The city could have sought a bond valued up to $426 million without raising taxes, but unused bond financing in the city’s reserves enabled officials to seek a vote on a smaller bond package.

Chandler relies on bond funding to finance up to 52 percent of its capital expenses across the city and has been used to bankroll some of the city’s biggest expenditures over the years.   

City officials said bond elections are necessary for Chandler to borrow enough funds to manage the upkeep of public buildings and streets.

“Without them, our ability to add new capital or maintain existing capital would be extremely limited,” said Dawn Lang, the city’s management services director.

The most prominent project to be financed by the proposed bond is a standalone crime lab that would allow Chandler Police to conduct more of its forensic testing locally.

The department currently depends on the Arizona Department of Public Safety to analyze evidence from complex cases, which Chief Sean Duggan said can result in Chandler having to wait longer to get back test results for murder and other serious crime investigations. 

“We are 100 percent relying on their timeline and where we are in the cue because (DPS) also provides that service to a number of agencies around the state,” said Duggan earlier this year.

November’s special election will be the first in 14 years since Chandler has asked voters to approve a bond authorization. It would be an all-mail ballot.

In 2007, the voters approved a $451-million package for projects that improved parks, libraries, public safety facilities, and wastewater systems.

The 2007 bond passed just as the city was beginning to feel the economic repercussions of the Great Recession.

The pandemic thwarted many of the economic forecasts Chandler had been projecting up until 2020 and forced city officials to reevaluate the stability of its revenue base.

Even though the pandemic’s impact has not been as disastrous as originally anticipated, the city is still taking a cautious approach to its budgeting and spending.

Despite the lingering financial uncertainty, Chandler’s leaders seem confident that local residents will support the forthcoming bond package.

“I’m confident that we can bring this to the voters and with our community, come out on the other side successfully,” said Mayor Kevin Hartke.

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