Carefree Candidates

Candidate Questionnaire

Carefree Town Government

On June 2nd Carefree Unity submitted questions to all Carefree Town Council candidates running in the August 2nd election.  There are eight questions in total.  Candidates Gene Orrico, Sven Maric, Kathlina Lai, and Duke Vukotic did not respond.

On June 7th mayoral questions were submitted. Peter Sample did not respond.

CAREFREE MAYOR

John Crane

  1. Briefly describe your qualifications and reasons for seeking office. How have your past actions improved Carefree?

I want to make an impact and serve by bringing my 7 years of service as Vice Mayor to bear. I want to bring current initiatives to completion and address new challenges where my experience, knowledge base, and proven judgement will bring value and solutions. The next Council must successfully finish the integration of all Carefree residents onto the Carefree Water Company system, must build community consensus to ensure financially sound, quality fire protection for our residents and businesses, and must encourage economic development without compromising the character of our community. My intimate knowledge of these issues will be crucial to resolving these and other issues. 

As Vice Mayor, I immerse myself in the community. I listen and speak with citizens and business owners and bring an analytical thought process to the table. 

My past actions have stayed the course for Town fiscal conservative management, helped to bring all of our citizens water service from the Carefree Water Company and have done much to sustain our small town feel. I supported many programs including the Veterans Memorial, Veterans Day, Memorial Day, the Little Free Library, Carefree Garden Seminars…. bringing value to Carefree residents and fostering communications between citizens and their government.

2. What are your positions on the three Carefree initiatives that will be on the ballot?

Initiative 472:  No. Passage with its retroactive provision, will require removal of the underground water tank, land remediation and relocating the tank near another Carefree neighborhood at a crippling multimillion-dollar cost. System robustness would be compromised.

Initiative 473:  No. Passage will weaken our local government and effective representation and will result in Council Members being forced out just as they begin to understand the workings of Carefree government. Only knowledgeable and experienced Council members can effectively challenge and work with Town Staff. That takes time to develop. A weak Council will result in a Town Staff with oversized influence. It will result in discontinuity and severely limit effective long-term planning and execution.

Initiative 474:  Yes. While I am not a supporter of term limits for small communities, I am willing to compromise sensible term limits in return for the continuity garnered from staggered terms. Staggered 4-year terms will preserve institutional knowledge and experience within the Town Council making for more effective and stronger Council members better positioned to engage with Town Staff and work with neighboring governments to better mind the interests of Carefree. Term limits will legislate turn over, bringing in new candidates while not compromising the effectiveness of government.

3. How do you believe the Town’s reserve funds should be utilized? Is the Town’s fiscal balance sheet sound?

Town reserves should only be used for capital improvement projects. During lean years, reserves should be used to supplement fire service and police protection expenses and support unpostponable projects.

The Town’s fiscal balance sheet is sound. With about 50% of Town revenue based upon potentially unstable sales tax revenue and without a reliable property tax revenue stream, the Town must maintain a strong reserve.

4. Do you support the Carefree Water Consolidation Project? Do you support the implementation actions taken by the Town to this point?

Yes, I support the Carefree Water Consolidation Project. A reliable source of quality water with properly maintained fire hydrants should be available to all Carefree residents. The added Carefree Water customers from the Cave Creek Water Company will pay a monthly premium.

Yes, I support implementation actions taken by the Town to date. Unfortunately, placement of the underground water tank at this optimum location, encountered legal challenge after legal challenge. The unacceptable alternative was to move the tank to a less optimal location in another neighborhood compromising system robustness and possibly resulting in a more intrusive tank and potentially encountering a series of new legal challenges.

5. Do you support the Economic Development Plan as amended and approved on 1/4/22? Are you satisfied with the activity taken in support of that plan by the Economic Development Director and other Carefree officials? 

Yes, I support the Economic Development Plan. To avoid a property tax to fund Town operations and expanding needs, the Town needs a robust commercial base. The challenge is to balance development initiatives with the sensitivity to preserving the Sonoran Desert, maintaining the character of our Town, bringing development that brings value to our residents and generating sales tax revenue. It will be incumbent upon the next Council and Mayor to strike that balance by respectfully engaging with all parties and honoring agreements struck to date with neighbors. Specifically looking at the Town Core, the Redevelopment Plan for the downtown must allow for stricter, more enforceable design guidelines to maintain the Town’s character and giving the Town better control of aesthetics.

6. Costs of Fire Department & Emergency Services are expected to rise substantially over the next several years. Would you support a transition from Mutual Aid to Automatic Aid? The Town has hired a financial consultant to examine options for funding increasing structural deficits in the Fire Fund. Was this a constructive move?

A transition to Automatic Aid would bring a more responsive fire service but would also increase the annual cost of fire service by about a million dollars. For a municipality operating with about a $6 million annual operating budget, this is a huge increase, which would need to be serviced year after year. To move forward, our Town residents and elected officials need to understand the implications in terms of fire service, cost, ability to fund the expense and the financial viability of potential partners and solutions. The financial obligation will continue for many years to come. Sustainable revenue streams must be identified to make options viable. Gathering and organizing the data needed to draw good conclusions and to educate the Town is a job beyond that of Town Staff. That is why it is constructive to hire a fire and financial consultant to gather and organize data, make recommendations, conduct workshops and meetings to inform the public, and then arrive at sustainable solutions.

7. The Town of Carefree General Plan is expected to be updated within the next Council term. Do you see the update as a natural evolution of the Plan, or do you have specific expectations of change?

The pending General Plan update, since the voter approved update of about 10 years ago, should be an evolutionary update addressing evolved sensitivities of our residents as well as the realities of change in adjacent bordering community properties that may influence acceptable land use in Carefree. The update should maintain our small town feel and our Sonoran Desert that define who we are while allowing for properly placed and scaled sales tax generating commercial development.

8. If elected, how would you work with the rest of the Town Council to build consensus for your priorities?

Engaging with each Council member on priority issues is the key to having a chance to build consensus. In the end, everyone may not agree, but we should disagree respectfully. How? Bring each Council member to the table and leverage their strengths, expertise, and areas of interest. Allow assigned Councilmembers to function as a key liaison with entities that the Town interacts with such as MCSO, Rural Metro, the school district, the court, the Chamber of Commerce, the Restaurant Association, and veterans groups. I would encourage councilmember dialog during Town Council meetings.

9. What issues do you see as most urgent? If elected, what would you try to accomplish in your first 100 days?

Most Urgent:

1. Complete the transfer of Carefree residents from the Cave Creek Water Company onto the Carefree Water System.

2. Manage a Town discussion to arrive at a consensus for a fire protection system that will be financially sound.

In addition, in the first 100 days:

1. Establish a group to investigate how best for the Town to manage short term rentals (STR) within the limits established by State law and lobby our state representatives to provide cities and towns more STR management latitude.

2. Improve the Town Drought Preparedness Plan, take steps to encourage water conservation awareness and behavior, begin to explore water charging opportunities, and support the Town’s participation in raising the height of Bartlett Dam and gaining access to additional water rights.

3. Begin a review and update of the Town lighting ordinance.

4. Begin to establish strong working relationships with the leaders of our neighboring cities and towns, schools and the County and State such that common issues can be discussed and resolved and positive synergies generated to benefit Carefree.

CAREFREE TOWN COUNCIL

Cheryl Kroyer

1.  Briefly describe your qualifications and reasons for seeking office.  How have your past actions improved Carefree?

I have served on the Council for 5+ years.  I have brought my marketing and communications expertise to support the Town’s marketing and communications projects.  During my time serving the community I have also either initiated or been a part of making our crosswalks safer for pedestrians and finding new ways to coordinate the Town’s various signage.  I have studied the Town’s water needs and have been a part of the solution to provide a quality water source for all of the Town’s residents. And recognizing that we are sales tax dependent, have worked with the economic development manager to find new sources of revenue while protecting the quaintness and livability of Carefree.

2.  What are your positions on the three Carefree Initiatives that will be on the ballot?

I DO NOT support 472 because it would waste millions of dollars, lead significantly to rate increases and reduce the reliability of our water system.

I also DO NOT support 473 because it bans people for life after serving a total of 4 years on Council (retroactively).  In a Town our size in most elections it is difficult finding qualified people willing to volunteer their time to serve our Town.

I DO support 474 because it allows for 2 four year terms.  The terms are staggered with half of the Council running for election every two years.  This preserves the institutional knowledge on Council while bringing in new Council members over 2 election cycles. After 2 terms Council members would have to sit out 4 years before running again.  We have needed staggered terms for a long time and this seems the most logical solution.

3.  How do you believe the Town’s reserve funds should be utilized?  Is the Town’s financial balance sheet sound?

Reserves should not be used to support reoccurring expenses such as ongoing operational expenses.  Reoccurring expenses should be matched with reoccurring revenues.

The reserves have been funded through savings of any annual surplus from operational revenues and one-time revenues from new construction.  Over time, these contributions to reserves will diminish as inflation impacts our annual operational costs and the

community reaches build out and no longer receives revenue from new construction.  Therefore, we need to use reserves wisely, for the purpose they were allocated to fund street repairs and capital improvements.  To do differently would violate our best municipal practices and leave us with larger costs to repair our aging infrastructure.

4.  Do you support the Carefree Water Consolidation Project?  Do you support the implementation actions taken by the Town to this point?

Absolutely.  Everyone in our community needs and deserves access to a reliable, quality water supply.  One third of Carefree residents asked for representation in their water resources.  In the past two election cycles, those candidates who stated this was a critical community issue and supported the project got elected.  Promises made were promises kept.  This is good and responsive government.  The plans to accomplish this water transition will help our entire water system plus it provides a financially solvent plan with negligible impact on existing water rates and will provide a more resilient water system for ALL of Carefree.

5.  Do you support the Economic Development Plan as amended and approved on 1/4/22? Are you satisfied with the activity taken in support of that plan by the Economic Development Director and other Carefree officials?

Yes, this publicly vetted document is a work in progress.  The plan does not seek to change the identity of Carefree.  It seeks to maintain our quality residential neighborhoods for which we are known.  However, it seeks to find complementing parts that will help to enhance our sales tax centric financial model and help offset the need to raise additional taxes.  Contextually, the plan is focused on areas which have non-residential uses and by finding ways to generate revenue and minimize disruption to any nearby residential areas,  in doing so, our Economic Development Director has worked hand in hand with nearby neighbors and property owners to address their thoughts and concerns to cultivate viable options.

6.  The costs of Fire Department & Emergency Services are expected to rise substantially over the next several years.  Would you support a transition from Mutual Aid to Automatic Aid?  The Town has hired a financial consultant to examine options for funding increasing structural deficits in the Fire Find.  Was this a constructive move?

Automatic Aid is the gold standard in fire protection.  This past year we had a safety committee, comprised of Town citizens, do a complete study of fire protection and what is best for Carefree.  Coming out of their recommendations, we have retained seasoned experts in Fire and emergency services, public policy and financial analysis to evaluate Carefree’s options to consider participating in Automatic Aid.

It is important to note, when Carefree assumed the original master contract with Rural Metro thereby relieving Town residents of paying annual individual subscriptions, the Town initiated an increased 1% retail sales tax and approved a Lowe’s doing business on the west side of Town.  Those 2 decisions helped to fund the master contract over the last 15 years.  Similarly, as a community we must collectively evaluate this future data which will be provided by these experts on how to absorb these recurring expenses and how to cover them in a financially responsible and solvent manner.

7.  The Town of Carefree General Plan is expected to be updated within the next Council term.  Do you see the update as a natural evolution of the plan, or do you have specific expectations of change?

This is a statutory update of the Town’s General Plan.  The law requires the Plan to be updated.  The dye has already been cast on Carefree as mainly a residential community.  The General Plan recognizes that and any updates will continue to enforce that direction.

8.  What issues do you see as most urgent?  If elected, what will you try to accomplish in your first 100 days?

Try to reunite the Town after the general ugliness of this election.  Get people talking to each other again and showing respect for one another whether we agree on all of the issues or not.  We are a small community and we need to work together to keep it a lovely place to live, work and play.  I would also want to finish the water conversion project to provide water to all Town residents.  And continue looking at our safety needs and new sources of revenue.

Glenn Grossman

1. Briefly describe your qualifications and reasons for seeking office. How have your past actions improved Carefree?

I want to keep Carefree the peaceful, serene, beautiful town that it has been since I moved here 16 years ago. We’ve raised our children here. I have been an active member of the Carefree Cave Creek Chamber of Commerce, including leading the Ambassadors for a time. Many times, my wife Tracey (who has lived in Carefree for 32 years) and I have worked the gates at the Thunderbird Fine Arts Festival. Prior to that, I was a Scottsdale Mounted Posse man for five years with the Maricopa County Sheriffs Office. 

I’m seeking office to use my vote on the council to stop property taxes, wasteful spending and reckless development which may destroy the neighborhood feel of Carefree. Like all Carefree voters, I’ve watched while our town has adopted an aggressive development approach, which isn’t always consistent with our unique, small-town feel. I want to do what I can to foster more responsible development. 

2. What are your positions on the three Carefree initiatives that will be on the ballot? 

Of the two term limits initiatives, I prefer 473, which limits officeholders to two, two-year terms. 474 does not go far enough to stop the group think that we have now. I believe that the initiative on eminent domain will throw open the windows on the Carefree Water Consolidation Project, which needs more transparency. 

3. How do you believe the Town’s reserve funds should be utilized? Is the Town’s fiscal balance sheet sound?

The balance sheet is sound, and we are fortunate to have reserve fund. These funds (over $14 million) should be used sparingly for essential, large capital projects that are voted on by the people of Carefree. 

I have been outspoken about retaining Rural Metro Fire Department due to their 50 years of excellent fire and emergency service at a relatively low operating cost. However, many have said that we should adopt automatic aid, which would require a new, more expensive fire and emergency service. It would also require over $500,000 of up-front equipment. I believe the voters should decide on their fire service and if they do pick an automatic aid service, the up-front cost should come from the reserve funds. The additional operating costs will have to come from a re-working of the current town budget, since the only fire service provider which fits in the current budget is Rural Metro. 

4. Do you support the Carefree Water Consolidation Project? Do you support the implementation actions taken by the Town to this point?

We are encumbering all Carefree homeowners with over $18 million of debt to provide water service to 526 houses that already have water service. This doesn’t seem to make sense to me. 

5. Do you support the Economic Development Plan as amended and approved on 1/4/22? Are you satisfied with the activity taken in support of that plan by the Economic Development Director and other Carefree officials? 

There are many projects and initiatives for consideration. The list is extensive, NEC of carefree Highway and Cave Creek Rd, NWC of Tom Darlington and Carefree Highway, 45 acres south of Sky Ranch., downtown revitalization, Town Hall relocation and more use of the Amphitheater. This is a huge list of projects for our town and each one needs careful consideration. But no property taxes! The town must develop in a responsible way, consistent with our current aesthetic character and without property taxes. Development must pay for itself. 

6. Costs of Fire Department & Emergency Services are expected to rise substantially over the next several years. Would you support a transition from Mutual Aid to Automatic Aid? The Town has hired a financial consultant to examine options for funding increasing structural deficits in the Fire Fund. Was this a constructive move?

As a 17-year resident (32 for my wife), I believe that Rural Metro has done an excellent job keeping us safe for many decades. They are a lower cost fire and emergency services provider than the districts with automatic aid. We now have two fully staffed engines in Carefree: 821 and 825. We should keep those and not adopt automatic aid. With two engine companies in our own firehouse, Rural Metro can provide low-cost service with “internal aid” back-up. Nearby Cave Creek has spent millions on their new fire department and their service is no better than ours. 

The cost overruns of the Fire Fund disappeared last year. Now that the Hampton Inn is open, we should receive more revenue from bed tax and indirectly, sales tax. There is no need to re-engineer the payment for town services. The higher expense of an automatic aid provider could lead to public support for property taxes, which I strongly oppose. 

7. The Town of Carefree General Plan is expected to be updated within the next Council term. Do you see the update as a natural evolution of the Plan, or do you have specific expectations of change?

We must Plan for responsible land development which protects open space and pays for itself. Property owners have a right to develop, but the Town has a right to review plans for consistency with our aesthetic character, such as architecture and lighting. I would support a dark sky initiative, which would maintain our small-town aesthetic character. 

8. What issues do you see as most urgent? If elected, what would you try to accomplish in your first 100 days?

Endorse and extend the existing fire and emergency protection contract with Rural Metro, including long-term use of engine 825 for back-up service. Downtown revitalization. Improve/increase usage of the Amphitheater for more downtown events, which draw people to our charming town center.

Michael Johnson

  1. Briefly describe your qualifications and reasons for seeking office.  How have your past actions improved Carefree? 

I’m a retired Chief Financial Officer/CPA with 35 years of working in startup, public and fortune 500 companies. Experience includes telecom startups that created jobs and helped build the internet infrastructure; print news and railroad industries. I managed high growth, mergers and acquisitions, forecasting, spending and fund raising. Companies included Ascend Communications, Oakland Tribune and Itel Rail. 

I’ve been on the council for 8 months and seek to retain my seat.  I’ve volunteered since 2015 to work on issues that affect Carefree and my HOA, Carefree Ironwood Estates; as prior HOA president. We led the effort to ensure the rezoning of Carefree Highway’s Northeast Corner to commercial, which backs up to us, worked for us and the town. We ensured it would not have fast food drive thrus, tall dense buildings and a 24-hour emergency hospital. I worked with Scottsdale to install turning lanes at my community and 60th street on Carefree Highway making it less dangerous.   

The Carefree Water Project needs to be completed and we need to add to long-term water resources by joining the study to raise Bartlett Lake and establishing a water recharge program for our unused CAP allocation. The move from Mutual Aid fire service to Automatic Aid must be thoroughly evaluated before making a significant financial commitment.

2. What are your positions on the three Carefree initiatives that will be on the ballot?

I am against proposition 472. This will require the demolition of the new buried water reservoir off of Tom Darlington. The reservoir is being buried to mitigate any negative impacts to the surrounding neighbors. This site was chosen because it was far superior to any of the 32 potential sites evaluated.  The Town needs the additional storage capacity provided by the new reservoir and if it is demolished, it will have to be rebuilt at an inferior site. The cost is estimated to exceed $10 million; money that will have to be borrowed and lead to significantly higher water rates.  

I am against proposition 473. It would enact the most draconian term limits in the state. It provides for two 2-year terms with a retroactive provision counting prior service before this election. It will eliminate all experienced candidates and prohibits them from ever serving again. It will limit voters’ choices and lead to political instability, and the elimination all institutional knowledge. It makes for poor government.

I am for proposition 474.  Four-year staggered terms will allow for 3 new council members every two years, blending the old with the new, allowing for an orderly transition of town leadership. 

3. How do you believe the Town’s reserve funds should be utilized?  Is the Town’s fiscal balance sheet sound?

Carefree is one of the most financially sound towns in Arizona. Its balance sheet is strong and has survived economic down-turns including the 2008 great recession and Covid-19 pandemic. The reserve fund is set aside to pay for one-time capital projects such as road maintenance and new machinery such fire trucks and equipment. The fund has been has been created from savings over many years so that these projects can be paid for as they arise. Deferring capital projects can cause the actual costs to go up dramatically which can make them too expensive in the future.  

The Town’s reserves should not be used for re-occurring or operational expenses such as public safety. Those expenses should be funded by reliable, re-occurring revenues to prevent financial peril when the Town’s reserves are depleted.  

4. Do you support the Carefree Water Consolidation Project?  Do you support the implementation actions taken by the Town to this point?

I support the project.  The project was publicly vetted over 4 years and two different elections.  Some of the key details of the project include:

  1. The 550 new accounts coming into the system will substantially fund the project by paying higher water rates than existing customers and will generate enough additional revenue of approximately $1.1 to $1.2 plus million per year to service the $1.1 million of principal and interest payments required annually. Existing customers will only see the same 4.4% rate increase they have experienced in past years.
  2. The new customers bring with them 378-acre feet of CAP water but only use approximately 225-acre feet per year.  The extra 153-acre feet of water will benefit all residents of Carefree.
  3. The 300,000 gallon buried water reservoir being constructed will benefit all residents of Carefree by providing additional fire capacity and emergency storage with in the entire system, making it more robust.
  4. Part of the project includes upgrades to the existing system bringing fire protection to parts of the system that have not had it in the past.

I support the implementation actions taken by the Town as the standard used was the greatest public good with the least private harm.

5. Do you support the Economic Development Plan as amended and approved on 1/4/22?  Are you satisfied with the activity taken in support of that plan by the Economic Development Director and other Carefree officials? 

Yes I support the plan. Carefree only has about 2% of its land available for commercial development. With 60% of the town’s budget coming from local sales taxes and no property tax, it’s important we find the right balance between economic development and quality of life. Our Economic Development Director has worked hard with residents, businesses and land owners to identify opportunities to meet the fiscal realities of the town, while maintaining and enhancing the quality of life of our residents.  While it is very difficult to make every resident and stake holder happy, the Economic Development plan tries to thread that needle.  

The plan identifies the long-term fiscal needs of the town and lays out in detail each parcel that can be developed and a specific revenue target. While some candidates have criticized the economic development efforts and plans of the town, none have laid out any specific alternatives on how they would provide the funding the town will require to meet its obligations and the needs of its citizens into the future. The reality is governing requires difficult decisions and tough choices.  

6. Costs of Fire Department & Emergency Services are expected to rise substantially over the next several years.  Would you support a transition from Mutual Aid to Automatic Aid?  The Town has hired a financial consultant to examine options for funding increasing structural deficits in the Fire Fund.  Was this a constructive move?

I do and yes, it was. The town has been forced to look to alternatives to its historical arrangement of contracting with Rural Metro and being part of Mutual Aid. The surrounding fire departments of Scottsdale and Daisy Mountain Fire notified the town that they will no longer have contractual Mutual Aid agreements with Rural Metro. This does not mean they will not come in an emergency, but we will no longer have a predictable financial arrangement with them.  First responders will still respond!  We are now being forced to take a hard look at upgrading to the Automatic Aid system. This has the potential to double the cost of the Town’s fire protection service in the next couple of years. Best practices in municipal financial management and the conservative approach is to have reoccurring revenues to meet reoccurring financial obligations.

The town has taken the approach of doing the proper due diligence prior to making such a major financial commitment.  The proposed contract from Daisy Mountain is for 25 years with up to 5% cost increases per year for the first 5 years and no commitment on cost controls after that.  

7. The Town of Carefree General Plan is expected to be updated within the next Council term.  Do you see the update as a natural evolution of the Plan, or do you have specific expectations of change?

I expect it to be a natural evolution. I have no expectations of significant change. The town is almost built-out with mostly infill lots for residential.  The two gateway parcels into town, the NE corner of Carefree Hwy and Cave Creek Rd. and the NW corner of Carefree Hwy and Tom Darlington, have been part of an ongoing economic development planning process. Both are surrounded on all sides by commercial development. The NE corner of Carefree Hwy and Cave Creek road was rezoned commercial on November 13, 2018. Ordinance 2018-06 spells out specific restrictions on what type of development will be allowed. The NW corner of Carefree Hwy and Tom Darlington was the subject of a general plan amendment on December 17, 2021 to allow a boutique resort with several restrictions of design, height, site lines, etc.  Several public meetings were held with adjacent property owners. 

8. What issues do you see as most urgent?  If elected, what would you try to accomplish in your first 100 days?

Complete the Carefree Water Consolidation Project and get all the new accounts connected to the system and generating revenue.  The revenue from these new accounts will be used to pay the bond payment due on July 1, 2023. This is the first bond payment that was not pre-funded with the bond proceeds.  This payment will dependent on the revenue from the new connections.

Complete the due diligence and public education and outreach on the potential move from Mutual Aid to Automatic Aid fire service. The town expects to have the reports of both the financial expert and the fire service operations expert completed in late fall.  We expect to have several public meetings to share the findings with the public and receive feedback. This will be critical in determining next steps and how and if we move forward.

Finalize and agreement with SRP to participate in the study to raise Bartlett Lake to generate additional water supplies. This is the Carefree Water Company’s best chance to potentially secure additional water resources at an affordable rate.  Also, we need to look at starting a project to recharge our unused CAP water.

Sheila Amoroso

  1. Briefly describe your qualifications and reasons for seeking office.  How have your past actions improved Carefree?

I retired as the Director of the Municipal Bond Department at Franklin Templeton Investments in July of 2020 and moved to Carefree.  I have 34 years of experience investing in public infrastructure and was the leader of over 30 investment professionals providing investment opportunities for individual and institutional investors. 

Our investment decisions required deep analysis of all aspects of government budgets, services, tax policy and public policy. I’ve seen the best, the mediocre and the worst government practices. I know what works, what does not and know practices to avoid

I was a member of the Carefree Public Safety Advisory Committee.  Our current sheriff and fire service contracts were coming up for renewal in 2022 and we were charged with evaluating current services, potential options for renewal or new contracts and revenue sources to cover the increased costs of public safety.  Our report is available for review on the Carefree website.

2. What are your positions on the three Carefree initiatives that will be on the ballot?

Prop 472- NO-This proposition is not primarily focused on protection of all remaining open space, as most of its language will apply only to removal of the underground water tank being installed in a utility easement along Tom Darlington Dr. Prop 472 is being put forth by a small portion of Boulders residents who are unhappy with the underground water tank. Since they have lost all lawsuits and appeals, this is their last-ditch effort to have the tank removed.  The location of the tank is the most efficient and effective location identified by our consulting engineering firm and will provide water and fire safety to residents in the SW corner of Carefree. Though it would be difficult to predict the exact cost in the current environment, it has been estimated that the cost to remove and relocate the tank would be approximately $10-12 million.

Prop 473-NO-for a town our size, two, two-year terms would preclude experienced individuals from serving and potentially leave us without a full council.  

Prop 474-YES-If you want term limits, two, four-year terms is rational.

3. How do you believe the Town’s reserve funds should be utilized?  Is the Town’s fiscal balance sheet sound?

The Capital Reserve fund is designed to provide the resources necessary to maintain our future infrastructure needs.  It is common for a small town to save money in a capital reserve fund for future projects.  A larger town can easily finance these needs in the capital markets.  

The town has a 5-year capital project improvement plan and 10-year street preventative maintenance plan and culvert maintenance plan.  These are updated annually.

The capital reserve fund also includes the rainy-day fund which helps to sustain town services during economic down turns.  

The town manager keeps an eye toward the future and understands that sustainable revenues and control of expenses is vital to maintain budget balance. The Town has a history of being fiscally responsible as demonstrated in our annual independent audits.

4. Do you support the Carefree Water Consolidation Project?  Do you support the implementation actions taken by the Town to this point?  

I fully support the Carefree Water project. Not all water systems are created equal.  While customers of Carefree water were receiving high quality service, customers of Cave Creek water were not.  

After many complaints from Carefree residents regarding service of their Cave Creek water, Carefree began to evaluate solutions and hired outside engineering professionals to help.  Integration of all residents into one system was determined to be the best solution, this included the underground water tank. 

Common complaints regarding Cave Creek water are bad smell, bad taste, clogging and inconsistent water service.  Also, there were concerns regarding poorly maintained fire hydrants.

Carefree residents subscribed to Cave Creek water have no representation or power in the town of Cave Creek. 

Water is a precious resource which needs sophisticated management.  With increasing population/usage and drought across the West, we need a capable and successful management team to protect and grow our water resources. Carefree water provides that expertise.

All Carefree residents deserve high quality water service and the NEW Carefree water customers are paying for the new Carefree Water debt.

5. Do you support the Economic Development Plan as amended and approved on 1/4/22?  Are you satisfied with the activity taken in support of that plan by the Economic Development Director and other Carefree officials?  

Yes, though the plan is process driven, has received public input and a lot of work has been done so far, there are still many decisions to be made.  I would expect the plans to shift based on community input, economic conditions, and potential budget requirements from the town.

There are four major development projects outlined in the latest Economic Development Strategic Work Plan. Two projects are on private property and adjacent to residential neighborhoods.  One on the NE corner of Cave Creek Rd and Carefree Highway and the one on the NW corner of Carefree Highway and Tom Darlington Dr.  The other two projects are directly town related as one is the redevelopment of the downtown area and one is the potential development of state-owned property south of Sky Ranch Airport. 

A high level of community outreach and input will be a necessary component to finalizing these projects.

6. Costs of Fire Department & Emergency Services are expected to rise substantially over the next several years.  Would you support a transition from Mutual Aid to Automatic Aid?  The Town has hired a financial consultant to examine options for funding increasing structural deficits in the Fire Fund.  Was this a constructive move?

I was a member of the Public Safety Advisory Committee (PSAC). We reviewed options for our public safety contracts and how to pay for them.  Exploring automatic aid was a recommendation. The PSAC finalized the report in March of 2022. It is available on the Carefree website.

Neither Scottsdale nor Daisy Mountain will enter a mutual aid agreement with us.  Though Scottsdale agreed they would respond to any life safety incident in Carefree.  

The preliminary costs for automatic aid are substantially higher than our current fire contract. We know we will need higher recurring revenues to pay for the increased costs. Approximately 60% of our revenues come from sales taxes which are volatile over economic cycles. The town hired consultants to do a deeper dive on revenues and model future revenues based on various economic scenarios so when we sign a contract, we know we can pay for it. This represents good public policy.

A fire consultant has been hired to help us determine the best fit for fire service for our town as well.  The next stage will be to reach out to the community for a discussion on the findings from the PSAC and consultants.  I fully support these actions.

7. The Town of Carefree General Plan is expected to be updated within the next Council term.  Do you see the update as a natural evolution of the Plan, or do you have specific expectations of change?  

The last time the general plan was voted on was in November of 2012.  State law requires Cities and Towns to update their plan every 10 to 15 years and requires voter approval to ratify it.  

Carefree is a small, charming town.  People move here to enjoy the beauty and serenity.  Like other towns in Arizona, we are experiencing growth and growing pains. 

To manage growth, community engagement is vital.  

Extensive public outreach and conversation will be required, and I expect with many new residents and the general nature of change there will be modifications to the plan.  The final output needs to come from the community and be voted on by the community.  We need to make sure all voices are heard to achieve a shared vision.  

8. What issues do you see as most urgent?  If elected, what would you try to accomplish in your first 100 days?  

I would like to strengthen and increase community engagement.  We will be making some big decisions over the next few years and as a representative of the residents of Carefree, I want to make sure I understand all sides of every issue of concern. In talking to a wide variety of residents over the past several months it seems many people weren’t aware of past public meetings.  We need to come up with more strategies to bring more people into the conversation.  

When making decisions regarding the future of our town we need to balance competing opinions.  We won’t be able to please everyone all the time, but I will make it my focus to listen carefully and work to build consensus around a shared vision.  I believe my deep analytical background and strategic decision-making skills will add value to our town decision making. 

Stephen Hatcher

  1. Briefly describe your qualifications and reasons for seeking office.  How have your past actions improved Carefree?

There are several ways to define one’s qualifications.  First, education; I hold a BS in mechanical engineering and spent twelve years in military research in the aerospace industry.  In addition, I hold a MBA in finance and taught graduate corporate finance for twelve years for the Univ. of Phoenix.  I also taught investment theory for the National School of Financial Planning.  My graduate thesis was a statistical model for the city of Scottsdale to predict real estate activity based on state and national economic data.  Currently, I work for Baird Private Wealth Management as an investment manager.  Second qualification would be my experience in large projects.  I spent three years on the town council working on economic development and the water consolidation project.  In addition, I worked for five years on the board of a 22 story high rise in Phoenix.  During this time we rebuilt the elevator system, all sewer lines, electrical upgrades, remodeled all the interior and exterior common areas, offices, and parking facilities.  

2. What are your positions on the three Carefree initiatives that will be on the ballot?

Proposition 472 NO

The idea of requiring a super majority from council and a majority voter approval for any land development is just not practical.  I don’t believe most of the community recognize all the time and work it takes to develop land or move any town project forward.  It has taken the town over two plus years of open meetings in the council chambers, meetings with the Water Company, engineering studies, financial analyses, and legal issues.  Then imagine the time it would take to collect a majority of votes from our residents too.  

Proposition 473 NO

Serving on council with a lifetime limit of two terms is just not practical.  We are a small town and there just aren’t many people willing to serve.

Proposition 474 YES

The ability to serve two four-year terms that are staggered makes sense to me.  Staggering terms is essential in proving continuity of knowledge among new and old council members.

3. How do you believe the Town’s reserve funds should be utilized?  Is the Town’s fiscal balance sheet sound?

The reserve fund is an account this is funded each year to finance future capital projects.  For example, every four years we repave miles of the town’s streets.  This is very expensive and as a small town we need to save the funds to properly maintain this critical infrastructure.  A town manager very much like a CFO has the obligation to ensure funds are available to meet current and future capital needs.  Our town manager has always demonstrated fiscal prudence and forethought and as a result the town is in excellent financial condition.  This demonstrates good government.

4. Do you support the Carefree Water Consolidation Project?  Do you support the implementation actions taken by the Town to this point?

I strongly support this initiative for two reasons.  First, we received numerous complaints from citizens regarding the poor quality of water being delivered to their home from the Cave Creek water system.  This was our CAP water being processed and delivered through the Cave Creek piping system.  Secondly, we lost a significant economic development project, Sprout’s Grocery store, because we were dependent upon the Cave Creek’s piping system to deliver the required water to the NE section of Carefree Hwy and Cave Creek Rd.  Cave Creek refused us usage of their piping system in order to successfully pull this project into their town.  Not only did we lose the $400K in projected tax revenue but also the hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue that would have been realized from the various supporting businesses.  This one project most likely would have totally financed our future fire department needs for the town.  Never again will we be dependent on our neighbors in controlling our economic growth.  

Eminent Domain is at times an essential means for the overall prosperity, safety, and growth of a community.  

5. Do you support the Economic Development Plan as amended and approved on 1/4/22?  Are you satisfied with the activity taken in support of that plan by the Economic Development Director and other Carefree officials? 

Yes, I voted to support this economic development plan and support the overall goal of developing prudent economic resources for the town while maintaining the tranquil and relaxing atmosphere of our neighborhoods.  

6. Costs of Fire Department & Emergency Services are expected to rise substantially over the next several years.  Would you support a transition from Mutual Aid to Automatic Aid?  The Town has hired a financial consultant to examine options for funding increasing structural deficits in the Fire Fund.  Was this a constructive move?

Making a change from Mutual Aid to Automatic Aid is not something the town is initiating.  The change is being driven by our neighboring towns.  Fortunately, Rural Metro will continue to serve our community while we take the next 2-3 years to develop a solid plan.  A fire department is commonly the most expensive line item for a municipality.  This decision for automatic aid is expected to increase our fire services budget by $1.0M.  The hiring of a consultant to evaluate and compare how a town of our size can meet this challenge was necessary.  We all must recognize that the long term success of a company or a municipality is how revenue is generated and liabilities are satisfied on a consistent basis.  The needs of the community are ongoing every hour of the day.  Consequently, a municipality should not attempt to match a consistent obligation, fire protection, with just sales tax revenue as this revenue is dependent upon economic cycles.

 7. The Town of Carefree General Plan is expected to be updated within the next Council term.  Do you see the update as a natural evolution of the Plan, or do you have specific expectations of change?

The General plan is just that a plan.  A plan that most likely will be revised as the town develops.  Besides the general maintenance of the town’s streets, park and open spaces, signage, water and sewer there are several projects being reviewed.  Town projects such as downtown renovations, crosswalks, and parking are in review.

 8. What issues do you see as most urgent?  If elected, what would you try to accomplish in your first 100 days?

1) ensure the water tank and all piping networks, pumps, and fire hydrants are fully

    developed and operational.  

2) drive initiatives to develop stronger communications between residents and the town.

    With a more comprehensive understanding of the town’s needs and challenges will

    hopefully eliminate time consuming and wasteful conflicts.  I would very much like to

    see the town chambers full of engaging residents during our council meetings.  We

    offer a public forum for the residents to share their concerns.  Too often this forum is

    silent.

 

Tony Geiger

  1. Briefly describe your qualifications and reasons for seeking office.  How have your past actions improved Carefree? 

Since 2013 I have been volunteering my time to work on issues to improve Carefree.  This includes 5 years as the Carefree representative to the Cave Creek Water Advisory Committee, including 2 years as Chair, the Mayors task force to close the Boulders sewer plant and one term as a member of the Town Council. I am well versed in the Town’s finances, budgeting process, public safety, infrastructure, capital improvement and economic development plans. I am fully prepared to meet the coming challenges we face.

I am seeking office to see the Carefree Water Consolidation Project to its conclusion and begin working on enhancing Carefree’s long-term water resources by participating in the study on raising Bartlett Lake and establishing a water recharge program for the Town’s unused CAP allocation.  I want to help manage the Town’s evaluation of moving from Mutual Aid fire service to Automatic Aid and make sure that the proper due diligence is completed before the town makes a significant financial commitment.

Specific actions I have taken to improve Carefree include working to close the Boulders sewer plant and working to make the Carefree Water Consolidation project a reality.  Both of these initiatives will ensure the quality of life of our residents and the long-term sustainability of Carefree.

2. What are your positions on the three Carefree initiatives that will be on the ballot?

I am against proposition 472.  This will require the demolition of the new buried water reservoir off of Tom Darlington.  The reservoir is being buried to mitigate any negative impacts to the surrounding neighbors and the site was chosen as it was far superior to any of 32 potential sites evaluated.   The Town needs the additional storage capacity provided by the new reservoir and if it is demolished it will have to be rebuilt at an inferior site. This will cost upwards of $10 million.  Money that will have to be borrowed and lead to significantly higher water rates.  This will be a total waste of resources.

I am against proposition 473.  It would enact the most draconian term limits in the state. It provides for two 2-year terms with a retroactive provision counting prior service before this election.  It will eliminate all experienced candidates and prohibits them from ever serving again.  It will limit voters’ choices and lead to political instability, and the elimination all institutional knowledge.  It is bad governance and a recipe for chaos.

I am for proposition 474.  Four-year staggered terms will allow for 3 new council members every two years, blending the old with the new, allowing for an orderly transition of political leadership. 

3. How do you believe the Town’s reserve funds should be utilized?  Is the Town’s fiscal balance sheet sound?

The Town’s fiscal balance sheet is strong and has weathered several economic shocks including the great recession and Covid.

The Town’s reserve fund should be used for the handling of one-time capital projects such as road maintenance and potentially new capital equipment such as new and additional fire equipment. The fund has been saved up over several years so that these types of projects can be funded on a pay as you go basis. If capital improvements are deferred for too long, the costs can go up exponentially, making them unaffordable. This approach has made Carefree one of the most financially strong towns in the state of Arizona.

I do not believe the reserves should be used for reoccurring, operational expenses such as public safety. Best practices in municipal financial management call for such expenses to be funded by stable, reoccurring revenues. To do otherwise puts the Town’s finances in a precarious position when the reserves are drained. Then how will the town pay its bills?

4. Do you support the Carefree Water Consolidation Project?  Do you support the implementation actions taken by the Town to this point?

I support the project.  The project was publicly vetted over 4 years and two different elections.  Some of the key details of the project include:

  1. The 550 new accounts coming into the system will substantially fund the project by paying higher water rates than existing customers and will generate enough additional revenue per year ($1.1 – $1.2 million/yr) to service the $1.1 million of principal and interest payments per year. Existing customers will only see the same 4.4% rate increase they have seen in past years.
  2. The new customers bring with them 378-acre feet of CAP water but only use approximately 225-acre feet per year.  The extra 153-acre feet of water will benefit all residents of Carefree.
  3. The 300,000 gallon buried water reservoir being constructed will benefit all residents of Carefree by providing additional fire capacity and emergency storage with in the entire system, making it more robust.
  4. Part of the project includes upgrades to the existing system bringing fire protection to parts of the system that have not had it in the past.

I support the implementation actions taken by the Town as the standard used was the greatest public good with the least private harm.

5. Do you support the Economic Development Plan as amended and approved on 1/4/22?  Are you satisfied with the activity taken in support of that plan by the Economic Development Director and other Carefree officials? 

I support the plan.  Carefree only has 2% of its land available for commercial development.  With 60% of the town budget coming from local sales taxes and no primary property tax, it is vital we find the right balance between economic development and quality of life.  Our Economic Development Director has worked tirelessly with residents, businesses and land owners to identify opportunities to meet the fiscal realities of the town, while maintaining and enhancing the quality of life of our residents.  While it is very difficult to make every resident and stake holder happy, the Economic Development plan tries to thread that needle.  

The plan identifies the long-term fiscal needs of the town and lays out in detail each parcel that can be developed and a specific revenue target.  While some candidates have criticized the economic development efforts and plans of the town, none have laid out any specific alternatives on how they would provide the funding the town will require to meet its obligations and the needs of its citizens into the future.  The reality is governing requires difficult decisions and tough choices.  

6. Costs of Fire Department & Emergency Services are expected to rise substantially over the next several years.  Would you support a transition from Mutual Aid to Automatic Aid?  The Town has hired a financial consultant to examine options for funding increasing structural deficits in the Fire Fund.  Was this a constructive move?

I do and yes, it was. The town has been forced to look to alternatives to its historical arrangement of contracting with Rural Metro and being part of Mutual Aid. The surrounding fire departments of Scottsdale and Daisy Mountain Fire notified the town that they will no longer have contractual Mutual Aid agreements with Rural Metro. This does not mean they will not come in an emergency, but we will no longer have a predictable financial arrangement with them.  First responders will still respond!  We are now being forced to take a hard look at upgrading to the Automatic Aid system.  This has the potential to double the cost of the Town’s fire protection service in the next couple years.  Best practices in municipal financial management and the conservative approach is to have reoccurring revenues to meet reoccurring financial obligations.

The town has taken the approach of doing the proper due diligence prior to making such a major financial commitment.  The proposed contract from Daisy Mountain is for 25 years with up to 5% cost increases per year for the first 5 years and no commitment on cost controls after that.  We need to look before we leap.

7. The Town of Carefree General Plan is expected to be updated within the next Council term.  Do you see the update as a natural evolution of the Plan, or do you have specific expectations of change?

I expect it to be a natural evolution. I have no expectations of significant change. The town is almost built out with mostly infill lots for residential.  The two gateway parcels into town, the NE corner of Carefree Hwy and Cave Creek Rd. and the NW corner of Carefree Hwy and Tom Darlington, have been part of an ongoing economic development planning process.  Both are surrounded on all sides by commercial. The NE corner of Carefree Hwy and Cave Creek road was rezoned commercial on November 17, 2018.  Ordinance 2018-06 spells out specific restrictions on what type of development will not be allowed.  The NW corner of Carefree Hwy and Tom Darlington was the subject of a general plan amendment on December 17, 2021 to allow a boutique resort with several restrictions of design, height, site lines, etc.  Several public meetings were held with adjacent property owners. 

8. What issues do you see as most urgent?  If elected, what would you try to accomplish in your first 100 days?

My top priorities are as follows:

Complete the Carefree Water Consolidation Project and get all the new accounts connected to the system and generating revenue.  The revenue from these new accounts will be used to pay the bond payment due on July 1, 2023.  This is the first bond payment that was not pre-funded with the revenue bond proceeds.  This payment will depend on the revenue from the new connections.

Complete the due diligence and public education and outreach on the potential move from Mutual Aid to Automatic Aid fire service.  The town expects to have the reports of both the financial expert and the fire service operations expert completed in late fall.  We expect to have several public meetings to share the findings with the public and receive feedback.  This will be critical in determining next steps and how and if we move forward. Finalize and agreement with SRP to participate in the study to raise Bartlett Lake to generate additional water supplies.  This is the Carefree Water Company’s best chance to potentially secure additional water resources at an affordable rate.

Vince D’Aliesio

  1. Briefly describe your qualifications and reasons for seeking office.  How have your past actions improved Carefree?

2018-present: Carefree Town Council/Carefree Water Company Board.

Worked tirelessly to ensure all Carefree residents have quality water service.

Council Liaison for Maricopa County Sheriff Office, working with Sheriff’s Captain on safety procedures during bike week and year-round

Helped to appoint Carefree’s first economic development director in enhancing our downtown core.

Served on town signage committee to enhance our downtown signage

Council Liaison for Cave Creek Unified School District: served on CCUSD Strategic Planning Committee with community leaders & faculty to improve our district’s mission and enhance education for our children.

Served on the AZ League of Cities & Towns Budget/Finance Committee

2020-21: Cave Creek Museum President:

Led the museum during the 50 year old museum’s most difficult year (2020-21: pandemic), remained cash-flow positive through cost-cutting measures, donations, and increased membership, while outreaching all the desert foothills.

Worked with Mayor Les Peterson to rename the Sundial Plaza in honor of our most treasured living pioneer, Gerry Jones. March 6, 2021 was designated “Gerry Jones Day,” in Carefree, and so named the “Gerry Jones Sundial Plaza,” with a boulder from Mr. Jones’ property and a plaque donated by the museum (inscription by Mr. Jones) adjacent to the Sundial, with a dedication.

2. What are your positions on the three Carefree initiatives that will be on the ballot?

Eminent domain is only practiced when absolutely necessary, and in this instance, to serve as the best possible option to serve our residents on the west side of town with a buried water tank constructed on property that would never be inhabitable, due to its location nearest our town’s busiest street. The land acquired was at the best elevation to move water naturally moving through gravity down to recipients and in the line of utility pipelines. I favor keeping eminent domain in place, and am against this initiative.

I am against term limits. Four years ago, six candidates ran for six council seats. Two years ago, our mayor ran unopposed. What would have happened if we had term limits in place in either instance, and did not have qualified or enough council candidates willing to voluntarily serve our community? I feel term limits are an insult to voters that have the power to decide who they feel should represent their best interests. A real term limit is your vote. If you do not feel your elected official is not representing the town in the best manner, vote for the person that you feel would do the best job.

3. How do you believe the Town’s reserve funds should be utilized?  Is the Town’s fiscal balance sheet sound?

We are a very fiscally conservative council and town. We have the highest cash reserves in the history of our town and have made sound financial decisions, even through a pandemic. Our reserve funds should be kept for projects such as street repair.

4. Do you support the Carefree Water Consolidation Project?  Do you support the implementation actions taken by the Town to this point?

Through the numerous public meetings with our town engineer and staff, the actions taken by the water company board (on which I serve) serves the best interests for all of our residents/business owners. Not only will we bring all Carefree residents onto the same water service, but the additional accounts will also increase revenue by $1.1 million annually, with the Central Arizona Project Water Allocation to these accounts moving with the accounts to Carefree. Current customers on Carefree water will also have upgrades to piping and infrastructure.

5. Do you support the Economic Development Plan as amended and approved on 1/4/22?  Are you satisfied with the activity taken in support of that plan by the Economic Development Director and other Carefree officials? 

Our economic development director has worked tirelessly to involve local business owners and residents in examining our downtown core and the best possible use of space, while also examining introducing recreational areas for pedestrians to easily move through town.

The revenue projections given regarding our downtown core and revenue generated as a result of our new anchor tenant, the Hampton Inn, would benefit the town in continuing to function without a property tax. The potential rezoning of commercial attractive parcels in our town will also aid in continuing to thrive without additional tax burdens placed on residents. We as a community must participate in this process to fully understand how we can benefit from actions that our economic development director is proposing. The process will continue to be made public, so that residents will have an opportunity to participate.

6. Costs of Fire Department & Emergency Services are expected to rise substantially over the next several years.  Would you support a transition from Mutual Aid to Automatic Aid?  The Town has hired a financial consultant to examine options for funding increasing structural deficits in the Fire Fund.  Was this a constructive move?

The Cave Creek-Rancho Manana Fire in 2020 was an eye-opening experience and demonstrated why the move to automatic aid is crucial

We have three options:

  1. Contract with City of Scottsdale Fire Department
  2. Contract with Daisy Mtn Fire
  3. Start our own Carefree Fire Department

All three options will cause an increase in cost over our current arrangement with Rural Metro, but neighboring departments no longer will recognize automatic aid with Rural Metro. We know the cost of options 1 and 2, we need to continue to explore option 3 to determine if we can administratively manage the additional internal staff and do it in a manner that will save us the most money in the long run.

7. The Town of Carefree General Plan is expected to be updated within the next Council term.  Do you see the update as a natural evolution of the Plan, or do you have specific expectations of change?

Our town is at 80% buildout, with rough terrain comprising nearly the entire remaining 20%. We have few corners that can generate revenue for our town, in order to continue avoiding a town property tax. The general plan’s evolution considers this and while commercial development was planned and discussed on these corners over 40 years ago, our town’s needs have grown and the general plan’s amendment has to occur, to accommodate the growing needs of our town.

8. What issues do you see as most urgent?  If elected, what would you try to accomplish in your first 100 days?

When re-elected, I believe completion of the water consolidation project and continued economic development in our downtown core are critical projects for our town in the first 3-4 months of my term. Fire safety will also be on our list of priorities. We must decide on our course of action with public safety/fire services. Our current contract with Rural Metro renewed in April, and we must have a plan set prior to the termination of our current agreement with Rural Metro in order to have automatic aid services available to our town. Presentations will be made to the public throughout and public input is needed as we navigate through the process.