After several months of discussion, debate and accusations that often turned personal, a proposed bond for improvements to the Sedona Fire District failed to pass.
The Tuesday, Nov. 7, election results for a proposed $17.9 million bond saw 3,337 [56.27 percent] residents vote against it while 2,593 [43.73 percent] were in favor.
In all, there are 12,863 registered voters within the Sedona Fire District. In a written statement the day after the election, Fire Chief Kris Kazian explained why SFD deemed a bond necessary.
“In spite of the outcome, the Sedona Fire District Board, staff and the Citizens’ Advisory Committee diligently worked to identify longterm strategic capital needs and the best funding options,” he wrote. “The decision to request the funding for the projects via a general obligation bond was recommended and sent to the voters for consideration. For as long as I am the fire chief, Sedona Fire District has, and will continue to be, fiscally responsible and engaged with the community while developing and maintaining our mission-specific focus to provide the best emergency services to you and our fire district.”
Kazian went on to state that even though the bond failed, the need for the capital projects remain.
“The ballot question was truly focused on the funding mechanism — issuing bonds to pay for capital projects identified in our capital plan,” he said. “Those needs did not vanish with the outcome of this election. We must now develop the necessary alternate funding sources to best accomplish our long-term capital needs to continually serve our fire district. We appreciate the engagement with the community and hope to enhance dialogue in the future. Our personnel’s focus is, and always will be, on the safety and emergency services for this community we proudly serve.”
Yavapai County Recorder Leslie Hoffman said the election went smoothly and that she has been pushing the last six years for mailin ballots for all elections. She said not only is the turnout much higher than a walk-in election but it’s also half the cost for taxpayers.
Any decision to change it would have to be approved at the Arizona Legislature. Earlier this year, the SFD board voted 3-2 in favor of moving forward with a $17.9 million bond. Treasurer Corrie Cooperman and Chairman Ty Montgomery were the dissenting votes. Both said they were in favor of a bond but more in the area of $12.9 million.
Cooperman said her concern with the $17.9 million was that it was too high of an amount to pass. When this process began, Kazian estimated SFD would need a bond for around $15 million. But as things moved on, officials determined that the amount needed to be increased.
To give some perspective, a $15 million bond would have equated to an increase of $17 a year per $100,000 of assessed value of a home. For example, the owners of a home valued at $345,000 would pay nearly $60 more per year. With a $17.9 million bond, that home’s annual increase would have been $71, or $20 per $100,000 valuation, Kazian said. The bond would not have just fallen on the shoulders of homeowners — businesses and vacant land owners would have paid their share as well.
The plan called for replacing Station 4 in Uptown as well as Station 5 in Oak Creek Canyon. Discussion has begun with Arizona State Parks and the U.S. Forest Service to move Station 5 to Slide Rock. In addition, major improvements and upgrades are proposed for Station 1 in West Sedona and Station 3 in the Village of Oak Creek.
Repairs to Station 1 carries a low estimate of $2.3 million to a high of $2.54 million while Station 3 sees a low of $1.8 million and a high of $2.04 million. The range for Station 4 is $4.45 million to $4.94 million while for Station 5 it’s $2.3 million to $2.6 million.
These costs did not include $1 million for a proposed new maintenance facility for Station 1, an upgrade to SFD’s telecommunication towers and equipment or an additional 10 to 15 percent to cover costs such as architectural, engineering and city fees.