PROVO — A special bond election with implications for Provo's roads and property taxes is being overshadowed by campaign theatrics in the mayoral and City Council races.
The city is asking residents to go to the polls Tuesday and vote for Proposition 1, which would allow Provo to refinance an existing road bond that voters approved in 1986 and agreed to extend in 1995.
The bond is scheduled to be paid off in 2009, but if voters pass Proposition 1, it will be extended to 2015. The refinancing would bring the city $5 million to $6.5 million for road improvements, finance director John Borget said.
No tax increase is at stake. The 1986 bond election triggered a property tax increase equal to about $30 a year for a $150,000 home, Borget said.
This bond election is essentially about road conditions and the timing of a property tax decrease. If residents feel road conditions and maintenance require the money and approve the bond, taxes will stay the same until 2015. If they reject the extension, property taxes would decrease in 2009.
Borget described the proposed extension as very similar to refinancing a home.
The city has created a Pavement Condition Index that identifies which roads need the most help. Engineers evaluated 3,000 city streets and ranked their condition. Those in the worst condition will be resurfaced or reconstructed with money from the bond extension.
The 1986 bond began a major undertaking to resurface Provo roads, city engineer Nick Jones said. Since then, with more than $14 million in bonds and another $7 million in state funds, workers have resurfaced most of the city's streets. Jones said the bond extension would allow the city to get to the remaining residential streets that haven't had any attention in the 20-year span.
Jones also said the bond is economical because it would allow the city to keep up with an economizing program of extending the life of city streets. By resurfacing roads that normally last 20 years at about the halfway point, Jones said the city gets a nearly new road with an additional 10 years of use at one-seventh of the cost of building a completely new road.
"Resurfacing costs 80 cents a square foot versus $6 or $7 a square foot (for a new road)," he said. "We've got our road system in pretty good shape at this point. If we wait another five years to do this work, we'd have to spend two or three times what we need now. Doing it now, we can spend fewer taxes dollars on resurfacing these roads overall."
Borget expects the city would issue bonds worth $5 million to $5.8 million. No matter what, the bonds would not exceed $6.5 million, and taxes would not increase.
There will be interest to pay, however.
The 1986 bond was for $8 million. The city paid $3,126,440 in interest.
The 1995 extension was for $6.6 million. The city has paid $3,583,424 in interest and is scheduled to pay another $530,444 through 2009.
Both propositions passed easily. The '86 bond and tax increase passed with 62 percent of the vote. Voters approved the '95 extension in a landslide, 87 percent to 13 percent.
There has been little opposition this year, although mayoral candidate Dave Bailey has suggested that instead of a bond, the city should look at using some of the $65 million it has in reserves parked in the city's different budget categories.
Even if voters pass Proposition 1, work might not begin for a year.
"We might not spend much the first year because we'll be hoping prices come down," said Wayne Parker, the city's chief administrative officer. "We know the roads that will be targeted. We don't know if we'll get them all done. The cost of oil and the difficulty of ordering supplies is a problem because of Iraq."
The supply shortage has created other difficulties.
"We can't even get concrete for sidewalks now," Parker said.