Another sign of slow recovery in Pima County - Tucson News Now

Another sign of slow recovery in Pima County

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

Whether to go to voters for a $550 million bond package will likely be made by the end of the week.

It's a question which seemed to be answered a few weeks ago when the county and local municipalities were gearing up for a 2014 election.

Pima County hasn't held a bond election since 2004, nearly ten years ago.

Now, it seems a very slow economic recovery is causing county leaders to have second thoughts.

In a 38 page memo issued by Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry, he urges the bond committee to reconsider the 2014 date and move it to November 2015.

The number one reason cited by Huckelberry, "the continued slow recovery of the Pima County economy."

It means the tax base in the county is not growing fast enough to allow the county to take on more debt until at least 2016.

"I'm still wavering," says Bond Advisory Committee chair Larry Hecker. "These are critical, critical needs."

But he also concedes they do not fit in the category of an "emergency.

A recent survey, in which 17,000 responses were received, 88% were positive.

Yet that may not be enough to go forward with the election.

"If we're going to have to raise taxes in order to pay for the voter approved bonds or have them disapprove the bonds because they don't want their taxes to go up, then now is not a good time to go," says District 5 Supervisor Richard Elias.

Many of the projects have been patiently waiting for years for a final approval, things like a restoration project at the San Xavier Mission, a resolution to the lingering question on whether to preserve the Rillito Racetrack, millions of dollars in proposed open space acquisition, parks preservation, affordable housing projects, expansion of Pima Animal Care and upgrading the forensic sciences center.

"These are much more than lifestyle," Hecker says. "These are very important, essential projects which need to be done."

The Bond Advisory Committee meets on Friday and Hecker says "it should be a very interesting meeting."

Hecker and Huckelberry both agree waiting another year could be good for voters.

"It gives us more time to inform the voters," Hecker says. "It's critical they know what they're voting on."

If the election goes forward in 2015, it's likely to be a pared down version.

Every year more requests come in and right now that request list tops $1.3 billion.

It was anticipated next year's election could handle about half the requests at $650 million.

Now, it may be pared down even more to $500 million, eliminating more requests.

But it will be difficult.

"If you look at the survey, it points out very clearly that people are in favor of parks, open space, neighborhood restoration and affordable housing," Elias says.

That could in jeopardy some of the new bigger projects which have recently been added to the list such as a $100 million U of A Stravenue project and the 10 story business and academic center planned for downtown at $70 million.

"I'm a big supporter of the community issues that have waiting a long time and we've raised their expectations," Elias says.

Copyright 2013 Tucson News Now. All rights reserved.

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