Mesa Voters Decide Whether To Boost Sales Tax To Pay For Higher Ed, Public Safety

By Mariana Dale
Published: Tuesday, October 25, 2016 - 6:08pm
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(Photo by Mariana Dale - KJZZ)
Volstead Public House owners say ASU could bring new customers to their coffee shop and bar.
(Photo by Mariana Dale -KJZZ)
Felina Ivey and Michelle Donovan own Volstead Public House and the Nile Theater.

Mesa residents will vote next month on a measure to fund more public-safety officers and bring ASU to its downtown.

Where's the money?

In a 0.4 percent sales-tax increase. That's 4 cents of every $10 dollars. The boost would take the city's sales tax from 1.75 percent to 2.15 percent.

Most of the money would go to the city’s fire and police departments. One-third would support higher education.

“These are issues bordering on emergencies that we need to address,” Mesa Mayor John Giles said.

A presentation to the Mesa City Council in June estimated the tax would draw an additional $38.4 million each year — $23.2 million for public safety and $15.2 million to support  ASU, Benedictine University and the Mesa Center for Higher Education.

Plans include constructing three new academic buildings, parking spaces and a plaza of open space off Mesa's Main Street in downtown.

“We’re still growing fairly fast, and at nearly half a million people now, we need a downtown that is reflective of a city that size," said Jeff McVay, manager of Downtown Transformation in Mesa, in a KJZZ interview earlier this year. 

Michelle Donovan co-owns the Nile Theater music venue and Volstead Public House. She's owned the Nile for seven years, which gives her membership into a group of downtown businesses that survived the light-rail construction that now connects Mesa to Tempe and Phoenix.

"Everybody’s that’s gone through the light-rail transition and now this has really put everything they have into this downtown area to see it thrive," Donovan said. "I think ASU could be that final push to legitimizing downtown Mesa as a destination."

Gene Dufoe, a retired engineer who has lived in Mesa for 30 years, said he won't be voting yes on Question 1.

"I did not think it was necessary," Dufoe said. He said the additional education facilities were not needed and Mesa should have looked to hire more police and fire officers before deciding to extend the light rail, pave bike paths or build low-income housing.

"They have operated in what I would say is a frivolous manner," Dufoe said.

Dufoe wrote the single no argument listed in the Mesa voter-information pamphlet.

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