Miami commissioners to seek bond issue as jobs generator
By Paola Iuspa
Citing the need to spend dollars and create jobs in a fading economy, City of Miami commissioners Tuesday said they want to issue bonds to fund new parks, sewer system improvements, marina upgrades and information technology kiosks.
If approved after a public hearing, Miami residents will vote on the issue Nov. 13, as part of the mayoral run-off. Commissioners decided not to place the item on the Nov. 6 ballot because, they said, there already are a lot of referenda on the ticket and voters could get confused.
With an estimated debt millage rate of $1.216, the city could issue about $290 million in bonds, said Carlos Gimenez, city manager.
The City of Miami has not issued bonds in the past six years.
Miami was declared in state of financial emergency in 1996, with a $68 million deficit, making the city a risky proposition for bond investors.
A state oversight board still supervises city finances, but Mr. Gimenez said the board could be dissolved by February when Gov. Jeb Bush gets the city's annual audit indicating Miami has been operating in the black for the past five years.
That, bond-rating experts said, would improve the interest rate Miami would pay. Fiscal experts told commissioners two weeks ago the city was ready to re-enter the market.
"I am prepared to move forward with general obligation bonds," Commissioner Arthur Teele said. "The jobs that will be generated by infrastructure works are what is going to keep us going through the next two to three years."
Commissioner Johnny Winton, who brought up the idea of expediting the bond issue Tuesday, said the city was responsible for finding ways to help reactivate the economy.
"We need to find any way we can to rebuild our economy," he said, "even if it calls for changing an ordinance to allow us to take special actions for this special circumstance."
Although a study on what type of capital improvement projects are needed in the city is not finished, Mr. Gimenez said he would have a preliminary list ready for an Oct. 10 meeting.
Some projects he said he has in mind include a $8 million park on Watson Island, revitalization of the Florida East Coast Railroad corridor for $11.85 million, a $20 million upgrade of the storm sewer system in Flagami and restoration of Virginia Key Beach for $10.3 million.
Mr. Gimenez said he had a list that added up to $190.95 million. He said there were some other needs in the city that would cost another $100 million.
"These numbers are not final," he said. "These projects and estimates are just ideas."
Commissioners have scheduled a special meeting and public hearing on the bond issue at 4 p.m. Oct. 10 at city hall. Commissioners will have to approve each project and cost before the item could be placed on the ballot.
Commissioner Teele, who made the motion to have the bond on the Nov. 13 ballot, said he wanted the manager to think in terms of neighborhoods instead of districts when coming up with recommendations.
"I would support the redevelopment of downtown," Mr. Teele said. "I support investing in projects that could be tourist attractions such as museums and culture."