Voters can rest assured that Pima County’s bond proceeds have not only been spent on projects that voters authorized, but have been administered without bias for the benefit of citizens throughout the County.
The state Office of the Auditor General released its findings on Tuesday, Jan. 29, at the conclusion of a legislative-ordered forensic audit of the Pima County bond program, focusing on the general obligation bond programs approved by voters in May 1997, 2004 and 2006.
“We hold as sacred voter trust and believe strongly that voters must have assurance that they will get what they vote for,” said Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry. “We are pleased that this independent review has unequivocally found Pima County to be accountable and transparent in its management of these programs.”
Huckelberry said the audit findings reaffirm the principles of the Truth in Bonding Code. The Code requires that any change to a bond program be voted on by the Board of Supervisors at a public hearing and only after approval by the Bond Advisory Committee. The Code also requires an extensive semi-annual review of the existing program.
Among the major findings:
- Pima County takes a collaborative approach in administering its bond programs, which is unique in all of Arizona.
- While other jurisdictions in the state typically issue general obligation bonds for specific projects that benefit only their own jurisdictions,PimaCountyhas established a 25-member Bond Advisory Committee that includes seven members appointed by other local jurisdictions withinPimaCounty.
- Projects are prioritized based on public benefit, regardless of jurisdictional boundaries. The Committee then votes on each project, considering both the cost of the project and its public benefit.
- Bond proceeds have been fairly used for authorized purposes.
- By the end of May 2012,PimaCountyhad completed the vast majority of projects included in the bond programs, issuing $735 million of the $893 million authorized through voters.
- As of May 2012, 93 percent of the 515 completed projects were finished early or on time.
- Auditors analyzed each change in approved expenditures or in anticipated completion date of projects and found they were approved by the Committee and the Board and properly accounted for, without any indication that the changes were made to reward or punish any other entities.
- Bond projects benefited citizens throughout Pima County.
- Of the 515 projects completed, 178 had a county-wide benefit, while 337 of them primarily benefited a specific area.
- In general, the projects tended to benefit individual jurisdictions in approximate proportion to the secondary property taxes paid by citizens within those jurisdictions. Auditors determined some differences are to be expected when projects are weighed based on public benefit. The greatest deviation occurred regarding the City of Tucson, which paid 43 percent of the taxes and received 50 percent of the value of the completed projects, and unincorporated Pima County, which paid 43 percent of the taxes and received 36 percent of the value.
Bond Advisory Chairman Larry Hecker said there was never a question that Pima County would pass with flying colors. The Auditor General’s Office routinely reviews the spending of bond proceeds as part of its annual financial audit of County spending practices, although this review was a deeper test and a more stringent process.
The independent affirmation is important withPimaCountyconsidering a bond question in 2014, Hecker said. “This helps us get the message out that our financial house is in order and we are committed to being a good steward of the public funds entrusted to us. The multiple layers of citizen oversight and accountability make this the most stringent and transparent bond program in the State,” he said.
The State Auditor General’s Office will present its final report at a public meeting on Friday, Feb. 1. The meeting will take place at 1:30 p.m. in the Board of Supervisors Hearing Room, 130 W. Congress, first floor.
To read the report in its entirety, please visit http://www.pima.gov/bonds/pdf/bd-auditor.general.bond.audit.report.pdf