Voters' overwhelming decision not to authorize the county to raise property taxes to take out loans will have an impact on the future of the region.
Exactly what the impact will be is too soon to tell. It means status quo in terms of spending, and public officials are trying to figure out whether to find other funding sources for the 99 projects on which taxpayers said they do not want to spend $816 million.
More Bonds Are A Possibility
The failure of the bond election was described as "stunning" and shocking to many who supported them, including the Tucson Metro Chamber.
"Everyone's very surprised all of the bond questions went down," said Robert Medler, vice president of government affairs at the Chamber.
The next step will be to identify where the support and opposition votes came from to figure out, to some extent, why voters turned down the $816 million borrowing package.
"We're really going to have to identify all of the projects that really need to go forward," Medler said, because some are critical to the economic development of the region.
But, the question will remain: how to pay for those necessary projects?
"That's probably the biggest question," he said. "Some of them likely will be potentially going back to the voters with bonds."
For example, $5 million was included in the bond for Davis-Monthan to buy private land inside the base perimeter. Medler said the if taxpayers bought the land for the Air Force, it would eliminate the the agency's expense to rent some of the land. It may help prevent Congress from considering the base for closure in the future, he said.
Perhaps, he said, people would be willing to increase their taxes by much smaller amounts for individual projects.
"Some of the other projects? Going to have to get creative," he said. The chamber's members supported road bonds, and though bonding for roads is not the traditional funding source, he said, the alternative is bad roads.
"Even if all the money that comes from the state and the feds goes straight into pavement preservation, we still don't have enough," he said.
Some officials, in campaigning for the bonds passage this fall, staked the area's economic future on the failed packages. Medler would not go that far in anayzing the impact of the lack of bond funding.
"I think it would have definitely taken steps in the right direction, but what we have across the board is more of the same," he said.
Parks Projects Potential
Pima County's parks director Chris Cawein would have been tasked with implementing the parks projects in unincorporated parts of the county, and would have had to make agreements with the cities and towns that had parks projects in the bond.
Now, he is analyzing how to make some of the improvements without any extra money.
"The needs for these projects were pretty strong, and some of the projects stronger than others. Obviously those projects won't get built at this point in time," said Cawein, who oversees the Pima County Natural Resources, Parks and Recreation department.
Eventually, he said, the county might try to find a way to do the work.
"We hope to go back at some point and try to implement some of the smaller projects at least," he said.
That approach may take years longer than it would have if bond funding was available, Cawein said.
"There's absolutely no capacity with our limited budget to implement these big projects," he said.
The county could consider scaling down projects, for example putting a dirt parking lot at a new trail head, instead of a paved lot with drinking fountains and restrooms.
"We'll be looking at efficiencies to see if there's any way we can implement some of these projects in a small way," but he said not much of his $17 million annual county budget can go to new projects, because it is already spent to maintain existing parks.
The county will be working with its partners, including volunteers and fundraising groups to try to make some changes without the bond funding, Cawein said.
Who Voted For What?
The journalists roundtable analyzed whether the bond election results were a surprise, what message they sent, and the slow vote-tallying process.
This week featured Arizona Daily Star Reporter Becky Pallack, Green Valley News Editor Dan Shearer and Joe Burchell, a former Arizona Daily Star reporter and editor.
One consensus they came to is that analyzing the numbers will help determine whether there are geographic patterns in the bond support or opposition, and whether Tucson City Council candidates fared differently among their ward's voters versus the whole city.