Local ballot measures, Arizona

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Pension Hotspots: Election review Nov 14, 2014

By Josh Altic

The Pension Hotspots Report is a monthly publication about local pensions and pension reform efforts.

The biggest pension news from election day is the decisive defeat of Proposition 487 in Phoenix, Arizona, - the only substantial local pension reform measure on the ballot last week. Meanwhile, in predictable moves, voters in Oakland and Yorba Linda, California, approved rather innocuous pension-related measures designed to save taxpayers relatively small amounts of money.

As of November 14, 2014, ten pension related measures were proposed for 2014 ballots. Six of these were approved and two were defeated. Court decisions removed the initiatives in Pacific Grove, California, and Ventura County, California, from the ballot.

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School bond and tax votes

Arizona requires school districts to hold elections for issuing new bonds or to override a school district budget. School districts are given up to five percent to override on a school district budget. Any override over five percent needs voter approval. Override is similar to exceeding a levy limit which is commonly called in other states. Arizona laws require school districts to have a substitute budget on hand in the event a budget override measure gets defeated. Arizona also has a debt limit protected by the Arizona Constitution with regular school districts having a six percent debt limit while unified school districts have a thirty percent limit based on the district's total value of taxable property.

Prescott Controversy

A controversy arose in the city of Prescott in late 2009 when residents tried to have an initiative placed on the November 3, 2009 ballot. The issue stemmed from the necessary signatures needed to put the initiative up for a public vote. City Clerk Elizabeth Burke told petition gatherers that they needed to get 2,058 signatures. This number represented 15 percent of the voters in the previous election. However, Gary Kidd, the City Attorney, disputed that the effort required at least 25 percent of voters' signatures.

The dispute began when officials pointed out that there was conflicting initiative procedures between the Arizona Constitution and the state statute. The initiative could appear on the November ballot, but legal action could be taken afterwards.[1]

A letter from Councilwoman Lora Lopas can be read here, along with other case-related document. In her letter, Lopas described her discontent with the way the situation on this issue was handled.

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