By Ray Stern for Phoenix New Times
The only way Mesa residents will see their police department receive a sorely needed infusion of cash is to approve a sales tax in November that will also fund an Arizona State University campus in downtown Mesa (AZBEX, June 14, 2016).
Mesa leaders and ASU president Michael Crow hope that by putting both the public-safety question and the ASU giveaway on the same ballot question, the ASU deal will have a better chance of being passed.
Conversely, the plan means there’s a chance ASU will drag the public-safety package to defeat.
The idea for a downtown Mesa ASU campus doesn’t have universal support yet. Some downtown business and property owners question whether Mesa will get its money’s worth out of the ASU project in the long run.
A meeting between these stakeholders, Mayor John Giles, and other city officials has been scheduled for today at the office of the Downtown Mesa Association, says a Mesa property owner who plans to attend and didn’t want to be identified for this article.
Giles announced the plan for a downtown Mesa ASU campus in February, and city leaders and the Arizona Board of Regents approved it in May. A month later, the Mesa City Council voted unanimously to put funding for the ASU project and public safety on the city’s ballot for the November 8 election.
Mesa voters will now decide whether to hike the city sales tax by four-tenths of one percent, from 1.75 percent to 2.15 percent. The increase will raise an additional $38.4M annually.
According to city officials, the bulk of the new money, $23.2M, will go to public-safety improvements. While the city’s fire department will receive funds for 27 new employees, including 14 firefighters, most of the public-safety money will go to the police department, which Giles — at a news conference earlier this month — said was “stressed” owing to a severe shortage of officers.
If voters approve the sales tax, the police department will receive funds to hire 58 officers over the next eight years, plus another nine civilian employees.
If voters approve the tax, $15.2M of the money raised each year will be put toward higher education. Mesa Benedictine and Wilkes universities will get some of the cash. But most of it will be used to construct a $102M-plus ASU project that includes four buildings totaling about 200KSF.
Three of the buildings and an underground parking structure would be placed on the same block as City Hall, which is bounded by Main Street, First Street, Center Street, and Centennial Way. The fourth building would be placed near the Mesa Arts Center just south of Main Street.
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