Over the next few months a group of citizens will meet nearly a dozen times to determine whether or not they recommend a bond be issued to cover the costs for upgrades to Sedona Fire District stations and equipment.
SFD’s governing board established a citizens’ advisory committee to explore funding options for infrastructure and capital projects including the possibility of a general obligation bond.
Seven people submitted their names for consideration: Lonnie Lillie, Gary Johnson, Dave Watters, Donna Varney, Caryn Maxwell, Wendy Tanzer and Eugene McCarthy. However, Varney had to drop out due to a scheduling conflict. The committee will be led by SFD board member Tim Ernster while Betty Johnson, Pat Ojeda and Greg Eberlein will act as staff liaisons.
The committee will work over the next two-and-a-half months to develop a written recommendation to present to the board at its May 17 public meeting.
During its Feb. 15 meeting the board approved spending up to $25,000 from the contingency fund for expenses to determine feasibility and to acquire more accurate cost estimates for capital projects.
“At this point we’re just exploring the concept,” Chief Kris Kazian said at that meeting. “We’re determining if this [bond] is the best vehicle. In doing our due diligence, I believe as chief and as a staff we owe it to the citizens and community to determine if this is the right option or not.”
The advisory committee’s responsibility is to review the staff’s capital project recommendations to determine which ones are critical to the health, safety and welfare of the community, Ernster said. Once the committee has identified which projects are most critical, it will review the numerous available funding alternatives, and determine which ones are fiscally responsible and make the most strategic sense for the community and the fire district.
“At the end of the process, the committee will make a recommendation to the Fire District Governing Board,” he said. “I encourage the public to attend the public meetings and participate in this very important strategic planning process.”
The meetings will have to adhere to open meeting laws and will be open to the public. They will also be available for viewing on the SFD website.
Once the board has the committee’s findings, it will make its recommendations as to whether or not a bond is the best approach at its June meeting. If that’s what’s decided upon, the bond question will appear on the November ballot. If that’s the route taken, Kazian has said the estimated figure needed would be $15 million, which would be paid off over the next 20 years. If passed by the voters it would equate to $22 a year in additional taxes for homeowners per $100,000 valuation on their home.
This would be the first bond SFD has ever issued.
“Although Sedona Fire District funding includes revenue from ambulance services, fire prevention and other fees, grants and wildland billing, our primary source of revenue is tax levy,” a SFD press release stated. “That levy is determined by a fairly simple mathematical formula and is governed and capped by legislation.
“We are now faced with an opportunity to consider how we will fund our short and long term, infrastructure and capital needs — some of which have been identified as needing attention for more than two decades. Identifying the true needs of the district and determining the best options for SFD is the primary purpose of developing this Citizens’ Advisory Committee.”
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