Typography

As we reported online Tuesday, and in today’s print edition, voters in the Sedona Fire District jurisdiction have overwhelmingly rejected the SFD Governing Board’s request for a $17.9 million bond for capital improvements.

In informal conversations around the city, it appeared to us that the biggest reason for the rejection was not from the unusually nasty back-andforth from pro- and anti-bond factions, in which we were called “biased media” by one side and “fake news” by the other for reporting the truth, nor from the eleventh-hour campaign financing revelation that Phoenix-based building contractors invested heavily in trying to get the bond passed for the long-term goal of perhaps winning the contracting bids, but rather for the simple fact of the bond’s huge size.

In the days before the Governing Board voted on the bond, we explicitly warned, “The $18 million bond will be difficult to pass for several reasons, first and foremost because $18 million is a big pill to swallow. The SFD board must recognize that while its request in a vacuum is mild, property owners have seen their taxes rise as most other governments and districts that have a property tax are collecting more as home values rise post-recession.”

We then warned the Governing Board that “Property owners already facing higher taxes from districts they cannot fight will see a bond request on ballot as the one tax they can resist and vote ‘no.’” The bond defeat was a resounding thumping of nearly 13 percent, with 56.27 percent of voters rejecting the bond, and only 43.73 approving it.

We also wrote, “... This newspaper will not support an $18 million bond. We feel it is simply too much to ask voters for when the urgent need is not present. While an $18 million, 10-year bond might fail spectacularly, a $9.9 million five-year bond could pass and should pass.”

The Governing Board did not listen to us, and while the $17.9 million bond is “technically” just barely under $18 million, voters ignored the $100,000 technicality it still failed spectacularly, just like we warned.

There is a reason voters rely on this newspaper to gauge public opinion. We’ve been here 55 years and know our community inside and out.

The Governing Board must listen to us and voters and interpret the election results as a sign that Sedona taxpayers do not want pay more taxes to SFD.

The Governing Board has the authority to ignore the will of voters, shrug off the defeat and simply raise the mill levy rate, gouging taxpayers for the same funds voters just rejected.

If the Governing Board raises the mill rate after this defeat, they risk not only a slate of anti-tax challengers in the next election but perhaps even a recall election in the months to come.

Yes, there is still the need to rebuild or renovate dilapidated Station 4 on Forest Road and move antiquated Station 5 to Slide Rock State Park and out of the building co-owned by the generous Garland family.

However, a mill levy increase is not the way to go and will have disastrous long-term effects.

This election stirred up the electorate and this bond election’s results will become a rallying cry for recall. In the event of a recall, the replacement candidates will not simply return the mill levy to pre-bond election levels but likely cut them even further, demoralizing staff and putting taxpayers at risk of depleted services.

If the current Governing Board wants to maintain levels of service, do not even contemplate touching the mill levy. Use the regular budget and current tax funds to replace and repair the stations, improve and replace gear and pay salaries.

The voters have spoken and SFD must listen.

Christopher Fox Graham

Managing Editor

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