By Allen Skillicorn, Fountain Hills Town Councilman
On November 7th, Maricopa County voters were inundated with 23 different school ballot initiatives asking taxpayers to either approve bonding requests or to approve budget overrides for operational expenses.
Of the 18 bond requests on the ballot, twelve were approved. Here locally, voters in Fountain Hills resoundingly rejected a $25 million school bond which would have raised taxes and cost taxpayers as much as $20 million in interest. More than 57 percent of voters said, “NO” to higher taxes.
The message from Fountain Hills is clear. Voters want their elected leaders to be responsible with their tax dollars and there is little appetite for tax increases. The ballot measure was handily defeated despite the well-financed campaign by the tax hikers. The Scottsdale Realtors PAC spent thousands of dollars to hike our taxes. Voters were simply not persuaded to pay even more in taxes.
Voters spoke and I think we all as elected officials in Fountain Hills should listen. The clear message from the failure of the school bond ballot question is voters do not want tax hikes. They want their elected officials to manage their money better instead of asking for more of their hard-earned money.
The budget negotiations for the Town of Fountain Hills are just around the corner, and as we move into the budget negotiations, the Town Council should keep the results of the last election in mind. We need to make sure we are spending money on the right priorities and not wasting money.
During the most recent budget negotiations, I proposed the Roads First Budget, which included $1,293,000 in cuts for a total of $41,807,000 in spending. Unfortunately, the Town Council approved a $43,057,708 spending package, which included 7% raises for management, $50,000 for subsidies for the homeless, $237,000 for outdoor exercise machines, $2,400 dues for Maricopa Association of Governments, $250,000 to replace healthy trees, $535,000 for streetscape (whatever that is), and a half million dollars for a general funds spending spree, and more line items of excessive spending.
We need to plan ahead to address both current and future infrastructure needs. Fountain Hills voters expect us to live within our means. Had we passed my Roads First Budget, we could have had $1,293,000 as a downpayment to fix our roads and prevent a future tax hike.
The time to address our infrastructure needs is now not tomorrow. We need to focus on these concerns before we have no choice but to ask for a tax increase that we know will fail. Our next budget needs to address our infrastructure needs as well as focus on improving our community’s future financial outlook. Instead of approving bloated, irresponsible budgets, we need to pay attention to what happened on November 7th and make being a good steward of the people’s money our highest priority. If we have learned anything from this last election, it should be that the people of this community want robust and bold solutions to the issues and concerns of our community. The people of Fountain Hills deserve better than the status quo budgets that prioritize insiders over the best interests of our community. I call on my fellow Fountain Hills leaders to make our residents our highest priority in the upcoming budget discussions by cutting waste and planning for the future.