A committee of 15 Payson residents will review capital improvement proposals and their funding options for the town, making recommendations for the projects to go before the voters.
At its Jan. 16 meeting, the council unanimously approved the plan to let a committee bring public participation to the process of how the public's money is spent.
The council will recommend people for the committee, plus interested individuals are being asked to submit one of the town's applications for board/ commission appointments to be considered as well. The plan is to make the appointments Feb. 13 and have the selected capital improvement projects on the Sept. 9 special election ballot.
Town Manager Fred Carpenter, Mayor Ken Murphy and Chief Financial Officer Glenn Smith investigated the process which has been used successfully in Mesa for the past 20 years.
This allows "capital projects to be decided by individual vote, along with their funding mechanism. It takes local politics out of it and they don't get mixed in with any candidates' campaign," Carpenter told the council.
The town manager outlined the activities that will be necessary prior to putting the issue to the voters:
- Town departments prepare preliminary lists of significant capital projects that will likely be needed during the next several years;
- Cost estimates for preliminary lists are prepared;
- The mayor recommends for council ratification a list of residents to serve as a bond review committee, being sure to include representation from a variety of interest groups in the community;
- Over a five- to six-week period, the review committee holds a series of regular meetings at which departments review their lists of proposed projects to be included in specific areas for possible inclusion on the bond ballot. Staff presentations would include the capital cost of each project and its impact on debt service, as well as operation and maintenance costs for each project;
- The review committee generates a final report for the council containing its recommendations as to what should be included in the bond election;
- Council votes on submittal of the bond question to the voters.
Carpenter said there are three kinds of bonds that voters must approve: general obligation bonds, revenue bonds and street improvement bonds.
General obligation bonds are retired through property tax funds. Revenue bonds are paid off with the revenue generated by the facility for which they were issued: such as utilities; public transportation like buses and vans; municipal golf courses; etc. To pay off street improvement bonds, a municipality may use some of its highway user revenues.
"I'm excited about this idea because this is what citizens have been asking for, to have more input. I would like to see it move ahead," Councilor Robert Henley said.
Councilor Judy Buettner said she also liked the idea, but warned that the council would have to use caution.
"The committee would have to be well balanced," she said.
"This has been done in Goodyear and it's been very successful," Councilor Dick Wolfe said.
"We don't sit in a little dark room deciding how to spend your money. This gives us guidance," Murphy said.
Carpenter urged the council that should a capital project be voted down, it should not be resurrected until the next bond election.
"It doesn't sit well with the public," Carpenter said.