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Sedona Taxpayers Face Three Possible GO or NO GO Bonds and or Property Tax

Sedona AZ (June 15, 2017) – The following is a letter to the SedonaEye.com editor:

Three “Possible” GO Bonds
Part One of three
Information and Perspective by Henry Twombly

The Wizards of Sedona continue to cast their misbegotten spells over Sedona, as we resident taxpayers are being set up for a series of three wham-bam GO bonds and/or a property tax in the next few years.

We already know about the first one – the $18m Sedona Fire District bond proposal, which its Board will undoubtedly approve. From the beginning (late January) its media campaign has been a snow job with a coyness about whether or not there would even be a bond. This immediately struck me as misleading if not duplicitous since SFD had already committed $25,000 for a Citizens Advisory Committee and $57,000 for architects’ consulting fees. Moreover this campaign has been helped by the Sedona Red Rock News. Since then there have been many articles about the SFD: e.g., “SFD to replace aging station” (1/25); “SFD explores potential bond” (1/27); “SFD needs taxpayers’ help to see if a potential bond is necessary” (2/1); three articles about the bond group (2/15), (2/22),(3/5); “75 train at Crescent Moon to fight wildfire” (3/31); “SFD celebrates its diamond anniversary” (4/7); “Garland backs new fire station” (4/21); “SFD use kitchen fire as a reminder, warning” (5/3). This is just a smattering, but you get the idea.

And this is not to mention its May 3rd issue which was dedicated to the SFD; its editorial lauded SFD for its 60 years of service to the community, which all of us residents appreciate. Yet this edition also featured a guest perspective by an SFD employee fear-mongering about the next wildfire (“It’s not a matter of if but when another significant fire impacts the area.”) and another article implying that the bond (if it occurred) would be a citizens’ initiative and the process would be “balanced and fair,” where “everyone gets a say.” The author was referring to the Governing Board and the Citizens Advisory Committee. The Board is “made up of five elected officials who represent their constituency – which are the people who live in the district…” This is partially true. Only two current members were elected back in 2010. The other three have been appointed. The recall election in 2012 notwithstanding, there has been no general election for the Board since 2010…in part due to the appointments and the department’s preference not to replace these members.

In a June 22, 2016 SRRN article that announced the purchase of a second $600,000, 10-story fire engine as backup, a SFD official stated that if no one else ran for the Board, there would be no need for an election and that would save the SFD $60,000. In regards to the Citizens Advisory Committee, the SFD and its committee members orchestrated their presentations to convince the citizen contingent of the need for the bond. Perusing most of their meeting minutes, I didn’t find any discussions about alternative budget planning that would substitute for and avoid a bond proposal. But they did discuss the consequences of what would occur if the bond didn’t pass. So it seems that the “Citizens” Advisory Committee was set up to rubberstamp the SFD’s need for a bond – which wouldn’t be surprising since this seems to be a common practice in city politics.

There are more instances of smoke-and-mirrors in the presentation of their PR campaign. Some of it is trivial yet (un- or)consciously symptomatic of spin. In terms of the assessment, the original phrase was “$22 a year in additional taxes for homeowners per $100,000” of assessed property value – all in hopes that the $22-a-year mnemonic would stick with residents when it came time to vote. The dollar amount per $100,000 kept changing – down to $17 (to make the bond more palatable) even after the amount of the bond went up to $18m. But that was quickly corrected to $20 per $100,000. In the first SRRN article (1/25) SFD was only going to replace Station 4. In the next it was Station 4 and 5. In the next they wanted to include renovations on Station 1 and 3 and a temporary $1m headquarters (while one station was being torn down and rebuilt). As a by-the-way addendum they also wanted to pay off their loan for the construction of Station 6. More recently they included another “$1 million for a proposed new maintenance facility for Station 1, and upgrade to SFD’s telecommunication towers and equipment or [and] an additional 10 to 15 percent to cover costs such as architectural, engineering and city fees” (SRRN 5/19). So SFD seems to keep adding items to its wish list, as if we residents are Santa Claus. The loan payment for Station 6 has dropped under the radar, and rumor has it something else may be under the radar – payment for some arrears due to the firefighters” pension fund…which all seems possible since when all the costs (using the higher estimates) are tabulated, there seems to be $2-3m of unallocated funds.

SFD Village of Oak Creek station firefighters work to save homes (courtesy photo Abel Ortega May 2012)

More egregious in its smoke-and-mirrors display is the SFD’s concept of “intergenerational equity – sharing the cost burden with those who will reap the benefits for decades to come.”

This is just doublespeak for we’ll be paying this bond for a very long time. It’s not like the next generation is going to come into the ring, tag-team us out, and we can stop paying the bond. But this concept brings up the question of how many years will we be paying off the bond. Moreover since our property values get reassessed and go up every year (no more than 5% annually due to state law), won’t we be paying 5% more on our $20 per $100,000 every year? Furthermore there’s been no mention about who’s paying the interest on the $18m bond. I imagine it’s us residents. I’d wish the SRRN would do their own independent research and write an investigative expose that would answer these questions and provide a detailed, itemized list of earmarked costs. Another question to be answered is whether or not firefighters are being overpaid, when compared to Flagstaff, Prescott, and the other districts in the Verde Valley.

I truly honor and respect the great job and service that SFD provides to the community; I just don’t honor and respect their mismanagement of funds. More disturbing is that they are not taking responsibility for the financial mess they’ve created. It’s not like they didn’t see the necessity for these repairs coming; they just didn’t prioritize them. If they had, there would most likely not be as much structural damage; and buildings could’ve been renovated and not replaced.

In the 1990s the Uptown station had serious structural problems that were never addressed. A 2007 committee pointed out the same needs for renovation and replacement of buildings as now. But nothing was ever done. Instead they built more fire stations (a boon to the construction industry, one of our 3 Wizards), bought two $600,000, 10-story fire engines plus a $3,200 drone, and lots of telecommunications equipment so they could become a regional communication center. Furthermore they bought “past years of experience for operational personnel to join PSPRS (state retirement system) and for administrative staff to become part of the state plan. These buy-ins were especially unique because employees already had a plan; changing did not require a bonus” (the Hatlers’ Letter to the Editor 2/3/17). In other words SFD wasted money, duplicating a plan to pad their pockets. In short SFD has been negligent in maintaining its infrastructure, which is similar to the City building unnecessary parks, a $1m wastewater bird sanctuary, and a $1m elevator uptown instead of completing the decades-old storm drainage project.

So now like the too-big-to-fail banks of 2008, the SFD wants us residents to bail them out. They argue “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.” (SRRN 5/19). In other words they will have been so fiscally irresponsible that they will have maxed out the mil rate. Moreover in light of SFD’s recent budget, they have learned nothing about fiscal responsibility. The $16,994,094 is “an increase of nearly $1.1 million over the current fiscal year budget of $15,854,789 or around 6.8 percent. Included in that are a few new non firefighter positions, fleet maintenance, an increase in training, a 3 percent cost of living bump and bond-related expenditures [probably some for SRRN advertising right before the vote]. The bulk of the budget comes by way of wages and benefits at nearly $12.7 million, while $2.8 million falls under the operational fund.”

What does the remaining $1.4 million fall under? Well, if the SFD is trying to convince us to support a bond, you’d think they’d show some fiscal responsibility and not increase their budget – not hire new employees, not give the 3% bump, sell one of the two $600,000 fire engines, etc. Alas they show no remorse, no sign of changing their profligate ways and seem to be assuming that the bond will pass.

Come November, the choice is ours. To pass the bond or not to pass the bond – that is the question. Inform yourself as best you can and vote your conscience. Obviously I’m voting against it because I think a little bit of belt-tightening and reordering of its priorities would be a good thing for SFD.

Visit the five related hyperlinks below this article for additional information and perspectives, then join me for the second of three Sound Off letters tomorrow, June 17, 2017.

Henry Twombly
Sedona AZ

Read www.SedonaEye.com for daily news and interactive views!

23 Comments

  1. MShobert says:

    Henry, please. Why not get your facts straight? You are making uninformed judgements on important things that you are ignorant about! What makes you a good fire chief? Have you ever had to call 9-1-1? You want quick, quality, professional service.

  2. James Harrington says:

    Of course the fire and school districts, although including the area of incorporated Sedona, encompass an extended area. Some people just don’t understand that. VOC, Red Rock Crossing, area of Enchantment, and parts of Oak Creek Canyon, by choice, were not included in incorporated Sedona.

    However it is of interest that although more votes will approve or veto the proposed $18 million Fire District Bond, the amount is overwhelming. Those of us in Sedona City Limits will be even hit financially harder with the other new sources of getting money from us are revealed.

    Thank you Henry Twombly for a riveting and detailed review of what is looming before us in the very near future. Will look forward to the rest of the story as your sequels unfold.

  3. Alarmed says:

    A few travesties in addition to the $18 million bond bailout:

    Both Chief Kazian and the SFD Citizens’ Advisory Committee have stated Sedona Fire Board members are elected. But when was the last time the SFD held an election to fill vacated Fire Board positions? Both Tim Ernster and Dave Soto are appointees. There was NO subsequent election to fill the seats vacated by Scott Jablow and VVFD Chief Hazime.

    The FINAL RECOMMENDATION of the Citizens’ Advisory Committee states: “SFD no longer needs to build its own Communications Center as we have partnered with Cottonwood Public Safety Communications Center.” WTF? In addition to the SFD, the former Sedona Regional Fire Communication Center handled communications for 10 other agencies; they were not paying the true cost of the dispatch services according to the SFD. Now 911 calls for the Fire District go from the Sedona PD to Cottonwood, and the Cottonwood call center then contacts the SFD. How much has the response time delay been for SFD medical and/or fire emergencies as a result?

  4. Good Point says:

    great points!

    I heard the last city county meeting and Chief Kazian was there.TUESDAY, JUNE 13, 2017 e. AB 2240 Approval of a resolution authorizing an Intergovernmental Agreement
    for Technical Communications/Consulting Services between the Sedona Police
    Department and Sedona Fire District.

    How can this be???? Why is the city paying the SF district ??? Shouldn’t they pay cottonwood?

  5. GNS says:

    Same as the Chamber contract, this conniving doesn’t appear to pass the smell test. When will the City of Sedona (incorporated that is) understand the Fire & School Districts are not their responsibility to finance? They will never get the message until there’s a solid public protest without fear of being bullied. One way to voice an opinion that WILL be heard though is your vote at the polls this November. Until these people learn to downsize their budgets and live within them, we voting citizens will remain hostages.

    Time to let go of funding private clubs. Example? Red Earth Theatre. That former Teen Center should be bringing in city revenue and not receiving Sedona taxes to operate it.

  6. Check your facts Hank says:

    Hank I love reading your postings because I try to figurer out what types of drugs you’ve been taking while writing them. What you consider “facts” are so out of alignment with reality that I just laugh every time I see a posting by you or the many aliases that you post under.

    Hank I know that you THINK you know so much about being fiscally responsible and THINK you have all of the answers to the issues of SFD, Sedona City and perhaps even the Trump administration so please tall me, did you apply to that Advisory Committee to share your deep knowledge? Did you apply at all????

    The fire truck purchase that you wrote about WAS NOT a “10 story ladder truck” as you twisted the original RRN article. What the article really says is:

    “The Sedona Fire District Governing Board approved the purchase of a new fire engine during its June 15 meeting” A FIRE TRUCK, NOT A LADDER TRUCK – Big difference to a guy who thinks that he knows everything.

    While you quoted the correct price the type of truck makes a big difference.

    Oh BTW Hank, if you read the entire RRN article, it sounds like they didn’t just run out and buy a truck, THEY DID RESEARCH:

    “The committee spent six months evaluating vehicle options and performance of the new fire engine purchased for Station No. 1 two years ago.

    The results of the committee review found the same style fire engine as at Station No. 1 would perform well in the Station No. 3 response area and the adjoining response areas of Stations No. 6 in the Chapel area and Station No. 4 in Uptown.

    Station No. 3, located in the Village of Oak Creek, has a 2004 structure fire engine with 71,172 miles. Once the new engine arrives, the current one will stay in commission but will be used as a backup when needed.

    This is an expense of $584,636 in the fiscal year 2017 budget. Staff recommended the cash prepayment option that includes $32,764 in discounts for the total of $584,636. Delivery of the new fire engine will be 12 to 14 months from the signing of the contract.

    “I believe if we’re going to pay the money anyway, we might as well pay it up front and save $32,000,” Kazian said. “Those are hard dollars — and not just a few bucks.”

    Board member Dave Soto said the cost could have been much higher if the district was not outfitting the new truck with existing equipment.

    “The thing we have to remember is, this is just the cost of the apparatus itself,” he said. “We do have equipment for it. It does get expensive. If we were buying a brand new apparatus and buying all the equipment for it, it would be double that price.”

    The manufacturer is Pierce Manufacturing in Wisconsin. Pierce has a joint purchasing agreement with the city of Mesa allowing other jurisdictions to purchase from the city of Mesa contract. Assistant Chief Jeff Piechura said that by piggy-backing on the Mesa contract is saving the SFD just under $15,000.”

    Hank when you post “So now like the too-big-to-fail banks of 2008, the SFD wants us residents to bail them out” I don’t think that anyone else except a FACT TWISTER like you see’s it about bailing anyone out. The way I see it, past Governing Boards kept kicking the can down the road. It’s attitudes like that that got that crazy board recalled. If it was up to people like them and obviously you, we would go back to horse drawn fire trucks that were used to put out the ashes instead of trying to save a building.

    What people like you don’t understand is that $600k AND MORE is the norm for a fire truck. Fire departments like SFD and any other, AREN’T CHEAP! The buildings cost money, the trucks cost money as do the young women and men who save lives. Perhaps if the time ever came that you needed one of the many services that SFD provided, you won’t bother calling them.

  7. Cris Carson says:

    This kind of sharing gives a platform to understand the bond proposal and thanks because I’m doing my best to follow.

  8. Who is Hank???? says:

    Having just made an attempt to make sense out of a comment from @Check Your Facts Hank I scrolled up to find something posted by that name and then failed to locate. So who is Hank?

    Trying to make some sense out of the ramblings of a deranged person that suggests the unknown Hank has been dipping into drugs, quite the opposite occurred. Clearly the person that posted such vociferous attacks seemed to be on something stronger than ginger ale. The consistent misuse of the English language, lack of writing skills, and misspelling made my own head spin. It has the earmarks of another extremely angry habitual contributor to Sedona Eye who uses several variations of unidentified persona.

    Totally without merit or substance is the lengthy but wasted words from someone who clearly is a hateful, spiteful and unhappy individual. Maybe people of that attitude should consider returning to whence they came – big cities – where they probably had no voice at all. What a sick joke they are and a discredit to what Sedona was intended to become. Just a quick review of the Community Plan Mission Statement should be enough to quash the hysterics of an unbalanced individual.

    BTW Facebook requires legitimate ID. Check it out and then make a calculated guess who this person really is.

  9. A Suggestion says:

    Since the Chamber of Commerce LOVES to take credit for every single penny of sales tax EVER collected in Sedona, then does that also mean they deserve to be credited for the overwhelming volumes of tourists? And is it not because of those MILLIONS of tourists we’re in this alleged need for extended emergency services?

    Doesn’t it stand to reason and because it’s the members of the CoC who benefit financially from the HUGE amount of money they’re receiving from City of Sedona taxes . . . then shouldn’t THEY be the ones to subsidize the vast needs and demands from the Sedona Fire District now and in the future? Or at least as long as the City of Sedona continues the absurd bogus contract with them?

    Why shouldn’t funds from the Chamber to sustain the SFD be considered Product Development, the catchy little phrase that’s supposed to justify this huge ongoing “scam”? That’s what they did for the USFS. .gave tax revenue to assist with trail maintenance. . !

  10. @Check Your Facts Hank says:

    I guess that this level of conversation is above someone’s pay grade that they didn’t know who “Hank” is. To be honest Me Thinks that may be Hank himself. If “Who is Hank” would have bothered to look at the writer of this thread he/she or Hank would know who I was writing about: Henry Twombly of Sedona AZ

    I am not rambling nor am I deranged. Perhaps Hank is trying to detract from the fact that Henry Twombly is wrong with most of his “facts” and won’t bother to admit it on this great blog site.

  11. YOWZER! says:

    Great suggestion (A Suggestion). But let’s go one step further. How about the Chamber of Regional Commerce extends their “Product Development” to cover that proposed sales tax increase the “Sedona City Council” (not regional council) will soon try to dump on City Limit Residents! What better source of funding our much needed road improvements is there than from those that created the problem? Time for payback to the citizens?

    YES INDEED!!!!

  12. Who is Hank? says:

    Response to yet another smart remark from @Check your facts Hank. If you had been more precise in identifying the person to whom you were criticizing, your initial comment would have made more sense with regards to determining the accuracy of facts offered from all parties. Having never met the writer of the above article, Henry Twombly, it would be impossible to determine what familiar name or names he is commonly known. Perhaps a bit more respectful response, CYFH, with your concerns to both Mr. Twombly and my own contribution would have conveyed a more dignified and beneficial exchange. You definitely present yourself as a familiar visitor to this site just based on your severe mode of attack.

  13. @Who is Hank says:

    Saying that you never met Mr. Hank Twombly isn’t as important as the fact that he is a regular contributor to this site and has a history of stretching or embellishing the truth to suit his own agenda and most readers know this.

    I do appreciate that you go and attack me which is just fine but interesting how you never once question my comments about his embellishments in his article, POINT MADE!

  14. Michael Schroeder says:

    It’s not just an $18 million bond , there’s another $8 million in the mil rate increase.

    You need to learn how your money is being spent and for what, and how it is going to effect YOUR pocket book.

    No population increase, and compare to other districts.

    All here. http://Www.arizonaliberty.us plus link to the video oresentation.

  15. @michaelschroeder says:

    http://sedonaeye.com/sedona-taxpayers-face-three-possible-go-or-no-go-bonds-and-or-property-tax-part-ii/ Read Part two then watch for part three tomorrow. (Henry Twombly)

  16. Eddie Maddock says:

    @michaelschroeder – posted I presume by Henry Twombly. Thanks for the heads up about Part 2 of your recent series now available on Sedona Eye. Look forward to reading it and I thank you very much for your efforts.

    Eddie Maddock

  17. Dwight Kadar says:

    SEDONA FIRE DISTRICT

    $26 MILLION FOR CAPITAL OUTLAYS

    The Governing Board has proposed spending $26 million for capital outlays, $18 million through a bond issue and $8 million through future property taxes increases.

    Since the 2012-13 fiscal year, the Governing Board has approved more than $78 million for employees’ wages and benefits, while approving only $7 million for capital outlays, less than 10% of personnel expenses. The approved capital outlays included $2.3 million for the new Chapel Area Station #6 that handles less than one call per day at an average cost of $11,500.

    Much of the proposed $26 million of capital outlays has been sacrificed in favor of higher and higher wages and benefits and because the Sedona Fire District is over-staffed by 30%-40% compared to neighboring fire districts. Now, the Governing Board wants taxpayers to pay the $26 million tab.

    $17 MILLION FOR OPERATING BUDGET

    The Governing Board also tentatively approved a $17 million budget for fiscal year 2017–18, an increase of $1.1 million, almost 7% higher than the prior year. This budget is $5.4 million higher than fiscal year 2012-2013 actual spending, an increase of 47%. The proposed budget includes additional support staff positions and a 3% cost of living adjustment (COLA) for employees.

    During the six-years Fire Chief Kris Kazian, a Scottsdale resident, has managed Fire District operations, increases include 13% more operations staff, 31% additional personnel expenses, 47% more total expenses, and 63% higher District property taxes, while general inflation increased less than 7% and square-mile area covered and population protected remain the same.

    WANT MORE INFORMATION?

    Please click on the link below to visit Arizona Liberty’s Website for details:
    http://www.arizonaliberty.us

    Please click on the link below to visit Arizona Liberty’s YouTube Channel for details;

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xF5QBomKbN0

    TAKE ACTION NOW!

    Please click on the link below to sign the petition opposing the SFD $18 Million Bond Issue:

    http://www.sedonacity.com/manage.numo?module=blog&component=display&show=post&id=12

  18. JessL says:

    Don’t just blame Chief Kazian, he works for the fire board. If they tell him they want gold plated, he will give it to you, good and hard.

    Ever notice what church is next door to the Chapel station? Ever connect the fact that at the time of station approval two members of the fire board were members of that church? Do you think all of Sedona needed the station or some other reason?

    The spending is WAY out of line. Vote No on any bonds and increase in taxes.

  19. West sedona resident says:

    Oh look all the Tea Party people are coming out of the woodwork with thier propaganda and half truths.

    Gotta love it..

    Dwight K
    Mike S

    And the rest of the Tea Party crew
    Mike S did you finance that Sedona Fire propaganda with the graphs and charts.
    Next time try to tell the truth ok..

  20. Norma says:

    BLAH BLAH @West sedona resident. Using name calling and bullying to keep control intimidate others and spend taxpayers money is complete BLAH blah BLAH!

    It is about time that the people of the greater Sedona area wake up, get educated and MAKE CHANGES.

    The highest paid industry are those getting PAID by the taxpayers!!!!!!! GOVERNMENT!!!!!!
    Why should they get paid more than the average resident? They shouldn’t.

    Come on JW don’t you have anything intelligent to say? Any person or group of people that look at the real numbers and present them to the public in a understandable transparent way get my accolades!

    It is really easy to spend someone else’s money. Look at the city of Sedona. They spend more than they bring in by almost $10 mill, they rationalize it and claim they are working in their budget as they are using up RESERVES. All awhile gifting special interest groups like the chamber, red earth, film fest and more.

    If a Tea Partier is one that wants to reduce big government, cut the government pork, waste and overspending of taxpayers’ money I WANTA JOIN!!!! Especially since I’ve seen what the city of sedona is doing.

    BTW each and every property owner and resident should be alarmed as the clan that powers you think you don’t deserve RIGHTS. You pay and they are playing with YOUR dollars. High, loose and free! IMO

    Thank you Henry GREAT article.

  21. The Real Deal says:

    WSR – the real deal. Check out Face Book comments directed at Mike Schroeder and Dwight Kadar. That’s where WSR steps out of the shadow and is forced to use real name. Make the connection. Easy-peasy?

  22. West sedona resident says:

    @norma

    You must be one very sensitive Tea Partier if you call that bullying..
    You should attend Crybaby Anonymous cause that’s all you do here on SE.

    Oh yes thank you Henry for your article which we shall file under Fiction like everything else you write.. You have given the crybabys and do nothings in town a platform to further complain….

    And the beat goes on

  23. @West sedona resident says:

    Who cares? Nobody cares about your opinion JW.

    WaWA wa all you want Rant like you have no tomorrow. Nobody likes you nor do they listen to you. USE your real name JW

    IMO

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