Over the next month the Sedona Fire District Governing Board will be pouring over a binder-full of documents as it decides whether or not to pursue an $18 million bond.
During its meeting Wednesday, May 17, the board received a presentation from the citizen committee that was formed to look into funding sources for the district. Committee Co-chairman David Watters said he and the others met 10 times over two months weighing options of how to cover the cost of major capital improvement projects. In the end, they chose to recommend a bond.
The amount is based on the committee’s determination that proposed capital projects are necessary and are considered to be high priorities. The Governing Board is expected to make a decision on the bond at its Wednesday, June 21, meeting. If approved, it will be placed on the November ballot to be voted on by those who live within the SFD boundaries.
With an $18 million bond, a home’s annual increase will be about $20 per $100,000 valuation, Chief Kris Kazian said.
The bond will not just fall on the shoulders of homeowners — businesses and vacant land owners will also pay their share. The plan calls 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 State Park. 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 carry 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 do 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.
“If the bond doesn’t pass, the district will have to find ways to pay for these needs,” Watters said. “It could be painful.” On those lines, the committee’s report states that, “The cost of not doing the bond [or the bond not passing] will require the district to fund the capital plan at a minimum of $2.5 million annually and fund the operating budget. It is important to note that in a pay-as-you-go scenario, the district would not be able to fund capital at the needed $2.5 million level for 10 years because the state-mandated mil rate [tax per dollar of assessed value of property] cap would be exceeded in years nine and 10.”
Watters pointed out that the need for new or updated stations is not a new idea. He pointed to a 2007 committee report that stated the same needs with a price tag of $19.7 million.
He also discussed that while the $18 million bond will cover capital projects, the district will still need to spend another $8 million over the next decade on new vehicles, equipment and apparatus. But that will be paid for through the normal annual budget process.
“This is really a snapshot in time as to what our best estimates are at this point,” Kazian said.