Three Ballot Measures In Mesa Could Increases Taxes, Utility Bills

By Alexandra Olgin
Published: Thursday, October 30, 2014 - 4:49pm
Updated: Friday, October 31, 2014 - 5:22pm
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Along with the other political races to be settled, Mesa residents will vote on one budget override and two bond proposals. Two of the ballot measures are city questions and the other is a county one.

“The feeling is that if there is more than one thing on the ballot the most popular thing may not be impacted but the rest of them might,” said political analyst Mike O'Neil. “Schools usually rank number one. There are a lot of people with kids in the schools and a lot of people who don’t have kids in the schools who want to have good education.”

In Mesa, every school override since 1995 has passed. Assistant Superintendent of Business Services Bobbette Sylvester said there are consequences to staff if the $31.8 million override isn't approved. 

“Currently we pay for 136 teachers directly in the classroom, that helps us keep our classroom sizes at a tolerable level," Sylvester said. "If we had to eliminate 136 teaching positions that’s equivalent to three elementary schools worth of teachers.” 

To save those and other positions homeowners and businesses could see the school portion of their annual property tax bill go up 10 percent. A business worth $1 million would pay an additional $44 next year if the override passes. A typical homeowner would pay an additional $8. 

“If you say no, your taxes go down, that’s the unspoken part of it,” O'Neil said. 

The portion of the school property tax that is part of the existing override would be reduced by one-third for three years. The other city question is the $580 million utility bond. Mesa operates its own utilities. City Manager Christopher Brady said if the bond passes he estimates a 7 percent increase in water rates, but that could change.  

“So the impact to the average resident will be determined not just on the overall cost of the projects, but as the number of people who continue to move to Mesa will allow us to spread that cost out over several accounts, which will help minimize the rate increases necessary to the future,” Brady said. 

The city is asking for this money to build a new water treatment plant to accommodate population growth. That would add about $120 annually to the average homeowner’s utility bill.

On top of those two potential increases there is Maricopa County's Proposition 480 that includes building a new hospital. O’Neil said the less local an issue is for voters, the less likely they are to support it.

“People think of the county hospital as indigent care and those are other people other than the voters for the most part,"  he said.

This would add $26 to the hospital district's portion of the property tax bill for the owner of a median home.

If all three of these measures are approved the owner of a median-priced $192,000 home in Mesa would pay more than $150 in additional utility bills and taxes next year.  

CLARIFICATION: This article has been modified to reflect that if the school override isn't continued, that portion of the school part of the property tax would be reduced by one-third for three years.

Updated on 10/31/2014 at 3:29 p.m.

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