LOS ANGELES -- The Maricopa County Community College District in Arizona may postpone its largest bond election ever because of concern over potential voter resistance stemming from a stagnant economy.
District officials tentatively scheduled the election for Feb. 18, but the district's governing board may hold off on calling for a vote, Helen Backer, director of marketing and public relations for the district, said yesterday.
"I feel confident that there will be an announcement "pertaining to the election after the governing board meets in mid-December, Ms. Backer said. She stressed that the board has not made a formal decision.
Nevertheless, district officials appear wary about moving forward with their $340 million general obligation bond election in light of what happened to a Maricopa County bond proposal earlier this month. Voters rejected all of the county's eight bond issues, totaling $737.5 million, even though a simple majority was required for passage.
Maricopa County's "bond election was a bellwether in tipping us off" on the mood of voters, Ms. Backer noted. "It certainly to us was an indicator of the public' fear of more taxation."
Citizens seem particularly leery about approving tax-supported spending proposals when the economy remains in the doldrums, she added.
Accordingly, district officials may decide to wait until later in 1992, or perhaps until early 1993, to place a bond election before voters, Ms. Backer said.
"We can't wait too long" because the district needs various capital improvements for its 10-college system, she said, adding that district officials already have invested about two years working on the capital development plan.
The district's overall proposed capital program would cost almost $400 million. State aid is expected to fund many of the costs not funded by the $340 million in proposed GO debt.
Major growth in the district's territory, which includes Phoenix, helped fuel the need for capital construction, Ms. Backer said. The capital plan includes a proposal for a new campus in the eastern part of Mesa.
The district's capital plan in 1984 totaled about $150 million, Ms. Backer said, and included just $75 million of GO bonds. The district expects to retire that debt in early 1993, she said.
The district is studying paying off any new bond issues in 10 years, but Ms. Backer said some taxpayers expressed concern over that timetable because it would also boost taxes to higher levels.
In response, the district will consider a debt service schedule with longer maturities in an attempt to lower the burden on property taxes, Ms. Backer said. Such a solution entails tradeoffs, she noted, including higher interest costs over a longer period of time. She added that district officials also would have to examine if it makes sense to use long-term bonds to fund certain purchases of equipment with a life expectancy of a decade or less.
Ms. Backer said the college district retains "high favor" in the community because it has "an economic role to play" among other purposes.