A faltering economy and a growing November presidential ballot has Pima County rethinking plans to ask voters for $750 million of bonding authority this year, officials said.

Anticipating long lines at the polling places, county officials fear that voters will be too frustrated by the time they reach the end of the anticipated four-page ballot to give much thought to the local bond proposals. By law, bond issues go at the end of Arizona ballots.

The 25-member Pima County Bond Advisory Committee has been meeting for more than a year, noting the needs of departments from parks and recreation to law enforcement and water utilities. Currently, the committee has a list of funding needs that runs to $1.25 billion, officials said. However, the county has set its goal at a proposal of about $750 million.

With the exception of sewer revenue bonds, the county would have to raise secondary property taxes for the new debt service.

Arizona has been hard hit by the housing crisis, and the state government in Phoenix is seeking ways to cut expenses.

County administrator Chuck Huckelberry said the economic weakness does not obviate the need for more infrastructure. The population of unincorporated areas of the county are expected to grow by more than 500,000 in the next decade, he said.

Pima County issued $100 million of general obligation debt last month. Standard & Poor’s gave the bonds a AA-minus with a stable outlook and Moody’s Investors Service rated it a Aa3.

Pima County elections division director Brad Nelson said the county must decide by July whether it will put the proposal on the November ballot.


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