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Council to consider $60 million parks referendum

June 14, 2018
Lehigh Acres Citizen

Cape Coral City Council will decide Monday whether to place a proposed $60 million bond referendum for city parks on the November ballot.

The initiative calls for the city to issues general obligation bonds to be financed over 15 years to pay for the acquisition, construction and equipping of various parks, recreational and athletic facilities as outlined in a plan approved by the Cape Coral City Council two years ago.

To pay for those bonds, the city proposes to impose a .4 mil ad valorem debt service rate, a rate officials say is expected to trickle downward as taxable values improve and more people move to the city.

Previous reports have said the property tax rate would be about a half-mil. Connie Barron, city spokesperson, said that number is now incorrect.

"People are still using what was estimated in a 10-year bond. When we moved to a 15-year bond, that brought it down to about .4 mils," Barron said. "That's not set in stone. We can estimate the first year, but it depends on taxable values and you can only collect what's in your debt service."

In a memo sent by city staff to Cape Council members, the expected interest rate on the bonds would be 3.58 percent, based on current market conditions. It will cost $180,000 to issue the bonds and $135,000 for the underwriting.

If the council approves the ordinance, the Master Parks Plan Stakeholder group is expected to reconvene and help decide where to allocate the money. The old golf course acreage (which the city is in negotiations to buy) and the proposed Oasis Sports Park, are not included in the original 2016 Master Parks plan.

"They will decide what, if any, of that money they would suggest to redirect to the golf course, and or the Oasis Sports Park," said Barron, who added there aren't very many revenue streams available to fund the Master Parks Plan if the referendum fails.

"It's not like there are alternative revenue sources that are readily available to generate $60 million. It would take a very long time to develop these plans without it," Barron said. "It would become pay as you go."

Before any talks about November, the ordinance has to pass city council muster.

Councilmember Marilyn Stout said she is interested to see how her fellow council members will vote, since she has some misgivings about the proposal.

"The money does not include the golf course or the projects at the golf course or the Oasis Complex, which is roughly another $35 million. On top of that, it will cost $3 million per year to maintain them," Stout said. "The mean household income in the city is $43,000. How are these people going to help pay for what seems like a very expensive move forward?"

Councilmember Rick Williams said he is leaning toward voting against placing the referendum on the ballot as well, even though he's for the idea.

"I'm not high on doing it this year. I think it's being rushed. We need to know exactly what we will do with the money and let people know about it, which won't happen between now and November," Williams said. "Also, this could not be a worse year to put something on the ballot with midterm national elections."

With the state charter amendments and county, state and federal races to be decided in the General Election, the ballot will be pages long, he said.

"If you put this on there, it's going to get lost," he said. "It's going to be buried and we don't time to property present it to the residents."



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