Buckeye residents to vote on changing town’s status in Nov. 5 election

Buckeye may no longer be known as Arizona’s biggest “small town.”

On May 7, the Town Council voted to hold a special election Nov. 5 to determine if residents want the town to become a city, officials said.

According to Arizona Revised Statutes Section 9-271(A), when a town has reached a population of more than 3,000 people, the council can put the matter to its residents for a vote.

Marketing a city

Buckeye’s Town Manager Stephen Cleveland said the primary reason for the proposed status change centers on the town’s future economic development.

The status change would be a “good marketing move” because businesses would rather locate to a city than a town, Cleveland said.

“They [businesses] like to be in cities because cities appear to be more progressive in moving forward,” he said.

Councilman Craig Heustis said businesses are interested in relocating to a similar area, which is typically a city.

If the status change is approved, he said businesses know they are going to be dealing with a more modern organization.

“It sounds more current, more updated, more up with the times,” he said. “We want them to understand we are a city. We do function like a city.”

Vice Mayor Brian McAchran said “city” has a much more positive connotation than “town.”

“I think there’s a perception that working with and developing in a city is much more beneficial than building or expanding in a town,” he explained.

“Town” implies that Buckeye is a rural community, he said.

Buckeye’s goal is to become an attractive community; however that is only possible through economic development, McAchran said.

Economic development is important because it supports the town’s amenities such as the police and fire departments, libraries and parks.

McAchran said he does not want Buckeye to become a “bedroom community” — a residential area where people go to neighboring cities to work.

“Our sole goal here we want to be a well-rounded community,” he said. “We want to be able to work, live and play in this community. We have a lot of area and we very much need jobs to go with the population that’s coming here.”

He predicts Buckeye will be one of the fastest growing communities in the West Valley.

With the anticipated growth, it is the right time for Buckeye to rebrand itself as a city, he said.

Impact on town, residents

Larry Price, Buckeye’s finance director, said residents will not see an increase in fees or taxes if voters approve the status change.

“The name change in and of itself won’t affect fees or taxes in any way,” he said. “If the fees or taxes go up or down, it won’t have anything to do whether we’re called a city or a town.”

The proposed status change will not affect residents’ property taxes. The town has a primary property tax, which is governed by statute. Property tax increases will be determined by law and not whether the town becomes a city, he said.

In addition, the status change will give Buckeye 24 additional powers, but many of those powers are similar to what Buckeye is doing now, Cleveland said.

According to ARS 9-276, Buckeye would be able to, for example, build and repair sewers, tunnels and drains. It would also allow the city to provide for the cleaning and purification of water, watercourses and canals. Another power would require the owner of any unwholesome or nauseous house or place to clean, abate or remove it.

If voters approve the status change, residents might be saying goodbye to that small-town feeling, Heustis said, adding the town doesn’t want to lose that feeling but it may be inevitable as the population increases.

McAchran disagrees.

“I don’t think the small-town feeling ever goes away,” he said.

With the potential growth of the town’s landscape and population, he said Buckeye will work to protect its heritage and past.

Voting information

Since the voting will be held outside of the normal election cycle, it is deemed a special election, Buckeye Town Clerk Lucinda Aja said.

The town conducts an all-mail election, but the council voted to have a traditional “ground” election,” she said.

Residents who are on the permanent early voting list will not be impacted in any way, she said. They will still receive a ballot by mail.

Early voting and replacement ballots can be done at Town Hall Oct. 10 to Nov. 1, she said.

Residents who are requesting to be on the permanent early voting list will need to contact Maricopa County’s election department by Oct. 25.

For all others, the town’s website will feature polling site information, Aja said.

To see a complete listing of the 24 additional powers, visit www.azleg.gov. For polling locations, visit www.buckeyeaz.gov.