The Mayor and Town Council of Gilbert, Arizona are requesting authorization to issue general obligation bonds in the principal amount not to exceed $65,350,000 to be repaid from secondary (ad valorem) property taxes to fund the construction of the Fire and Police Public Safety Training Facility to be located within the Town. The total estimated cost of construction for the facility is $84.6 million including utilities, permitting and site improvements. If the Bonds are approved, the remaining balance of $19.6 million for the construction of the Fire and Police Public Safety Training Facility will be funded by the Town.
The Town has a responsibility to provide for the overall safety of the community. From 2000 to 2018, the Town has more than doubled in population, growing from 109,697 to over 247,000 residents who call Gilbert home. This growth in population brings an increased demand for public safety services.
In planning for the Fire and Police Public Safety Training Facility, the Town evaluated current public safety needs from the community, anticipated future public safety needs, and the training standards and requirements for Gilbert fire fighters and police officers. This evaluation included whether the Town could reliably fulfill its training needs both in the short- and longterm. The Town does not have its own training facility for fire or police so it has to borrow time and space in the training facilities of other cities, whose own public safety demands are growing. These other cities are unable to guarantee the consistent and long-term access to their facilities to continue providing for Gilbert’s public safety training needs.
According to demographic projections, the Town is expected to add more than 80,000 new residents over the next decade. However, in the next seven years, the Gilbert police and fire departments project a potential loss of up to 84% of its sworn personnel to traditional and non-traditional retirement and attrition rates. The average years of public safety experience that would be lost upon retirement is 25.75 years. Replacing this loss of experienced personnel will require adequate and ongoing training for the Town’s existing and newly-hired police officers and fire fighters.
To develop an accurate cost estimate for this project, Town staff undertook the following steps:
- Developed a preliminary engineering report for the entire proposed facility including geotechnical investigation of the site, traffic data collection, utility needs and conflicts, driver training track configuration and other related infrastructure needs;
- Researched, reviewed and met with both staff and contractors from multiple training facilities in the region and in other states to identify best practices and lessons learned in the design and construction of this type of facility;
- Paid for the facility design and for the construction documents to identify and establish key parameters for the complex and highly technical components of the facility;
- Conducted a three-day efficiency workshop at the beginning of the design process to prioritize critical needs and eliminate inefficient options and solutions; and
- Performed independent cost estimation to verify that the construction estimates are in-line with the market.
This pamphlet contains more information about the bond election.
Frequently Asked Questions
Over the next decade, the Gilbert police and fire departments project a potential loss of up to 84% of its sworn personnel to traditional and non-traditional retirement and attrition rates. The average years of public safety experience that would be lost upon retirement is 25.75 years. Replacing this loss of experienced personnel will require adequate and ongoing training for the Town’s existing and newly-hired police officers and fire fighters.
The facility could also support joint training between the departments and other regional agency partners. Through partnerships with other organizations, there may be an opportunity to charge fees that could be applied toward annual operations and maintenance costs of the facility.
What: The facility would include fire and police training equipment and structures, including a series of specialized training buildings designed to mimic structures and hazards commonly found in Gilbert, a driver training course and classrooms. An amphitheater-style space designed to be made available to community organizations is also included.
Where: The site for the proposed training facility is located on 50 acres of Town-owned land near the northwest corner of Power and Pecos Roads. A majority of this land is located within the Maricopa County Flood Control District, which restricts traditional use of the land.
When: If the Bonds are approved, construction on the Fire and Police Public Safety Training Facility can begin as early as the spring of 2019 with an expected completion date of spring 2021.
Over the past decade, the Town has used bond funds to help finance major capital improvement projects in the community such as the expansion of a wastewater treatment plant and a water treatment plant, the construction of new streets, the construction of a new fire station, and the construction of a new parking garage in Gilbert’s downtown Heritage District.
The Town’s current property tax rate is $0.99 per $100 of assessed value property tax rate. The proposed Bonds are recommended to be funded within this existing $0.99 rate, therefore there is no anticipated increase in the tax rate as a result of the issuance of the Bonds.
If the Bonds are approved, the Town intends to maintain the $0.99 per $100 of assessed value property tax rate for the repayment of its existing debt and the proposed Bonds. Regardless of whether these Bonds are approved, your total property tax payment may change based on any changes in your assessed property value or in the tax rates from the County, your local school district, or other overlapping taxing jurisdictions.
Bonds are a method used by the State, counties, school districts, and cities and towns to finance major capital projects. They work similarly to your home mortgage, through which you can finance a large purchase over time. Bonded debt is the primary mechanism established by State statute that enables municipalities such as the Town to build, maintain and replace public assets and infrastructure, such as the proposed Fire and Police Public Safety Training Facility. The Town issues tax-exempt bonds as part of a comprehensive capital improvement program to fund such infrastructure projects. Historically, the Town’s interest expense on its general obligation bonds has been low due to the Town’s management of its debt program and superior bond rating. From 2011-2018, the Town saved more than $64.8 million of interest costs through refinancing into better rates and paying off bonds before their due date. In its rationale for the Town’s Aaa bond rating, Moody’s Investor Service stated “Gilbert’s credit position is superior. Its Aaa rating is well above the median rating of Aa3 for cities nationwide. The notable credit factors include a robust financial position, a very substantial tax base and a strong wealth and income profile.”
Under State law, any voter approved funding can only be used for the purpose associated with the bond question. The Town follows all Accounting Standards to ensure accurate and transparent accounting of all transactions related to the use of the Bonds by segregating the proceeds and related expenditures into a separate fund. This includes reporting certain required financial information to the MSRB Electronic Municipal Market Access (EMMA) website, and fulfilling all post-issuance debt compliance requirements. The Town’s financial statements, including all bond-related transactions are audited annually by an independent third-party public accounting firm. Additionally, under State law, the issuance of any debt for this project along with any related contracts are subject to final Council approval. The Bond Resolution, contracts and supporting documents will be posted and available to the public prior to the Council meeting.
The Town does have a secondary property tax. Secondary property taxes are collected from the owners of taxable property within a municipal jurisdiction and are used to repay general obligation bonds and budget overrides for school districts. In Gilbert’s case, if authorized, the Town would use secondary property taxes to repay the Bonds associated with this question.