County outlines priorities for bond funds
By Suzy Valentine
A three-tier system is being introduced to determine projects most likely to reap specific requests from the $2.9 billion General Obligation Bond issue approved in 2004.
Miami-Dade County's General Obligation Bond Subcommittee heard Tuesday which programs are earmarked on the ranking lists, called the conforming allocation schedule, slightly modified allocation schedule and modified allocation schedule.
Conforming allocations are those "getting exactly or very close to what they asked for after we did a review of the feasibility of building the project," said capital improvements coordinator Roger Ted Hernstadt.
The top-ranking, in order: MetroZoo, Miami Beach Convention Center, Vizcaya, Orange Bowl, beach renourishment program, affordable housing, courts, primary health care, economic development, targeted urban areas for economic development, Americans with Disabilities Act projects, public works infrastructure, Department of Human Services, not-for-profit infrastructure fund, development rights for Planning and Zoning Department, police department upgrades, animal services, Homeless Trust, solid-waste management, Riverwalk, Community Action Agency, fire service and municipalities.
Allocations "getting close to what they asked for" are: Museum of Science & Planetarium, Historical Museum of Southern Florida, Miami Art Museum, parks, libraries, drainage, endangered lands, public works, bridges and bikeways, Public Health Trust and seven of 10 Department of Cultural Affairs projects.
The third group lists Port of Miami, water and sewer projects, general services and administration, corrections, Hialeah School of Performing Arts, Fairchild Tropical Garden, Wolfsonian and Carver Theater.
"That doesn't mean they won't be getting money in year one," said Mr. Hernstadt. "It means their money will be spread out slightly differently than they asked for."
As the General Obligation Bond Program Subcommittee heard Tuesday that projects benefiting from $2.9 billion in funds are assigned different status rankings, they also learned about plans for a board to review the distributions.
Miami-Dade County Commissioners on April 5 approved the creation of a Citizens Advisory Committee for the bond issue, and recruitment is to start next month.
The bond subcommittee of chairman Bruno Barreiro, Carlos Gimenez, Dorrin Rolle and Katy Sorenson heard that a briefing for potential members would take place within two weeks.
"Our schedule with regard to the Citizens Advisory Committee starts with a membership orientation at the county commission on the evening of April 27," said Roger Ted Hernstadt, the county's capital improvements coordinator. "That'll be for prospective members who want to be considered to be appointed to the committee. They'll come in and be briefed on what the duties and responsibilities of the members would be.
"In the interim, we'll be running advertisements in all the newspapers," said Mr. Hernstadt, "telling people about the application process. We'll then collect all the applications and pass those to the commissioners and Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Alvarez."
The 21-member panel will be made up of 13 members - one appointed by each of the commissioners, three appointed by the mayor and five by County Manager George Burgess. The deadline for submissions is May 6.
"At that point, we'll be providing each commissioner's names of prospective candidates," he said, "for your consideration."
The next meeting of the General Obligation Bond Program Subcommittee is scheduled for April 21, but the allocation schedule for the first round of $200 million in funds isn't to be considered until May 10.
"We could possibly go to the Board of County Commissioners for the allocation grant May 17," Mr. Hernstadt told the subcommittee. "That would keep us on schedule to do a first bond sale of the summer starting in June."
"We will be coming down to each commission office," said Assistant County Manager Bill Johnson, "to go through the distribution."
Determining which projects could best benefit from the funds first, Mr. Hernstadt said, was a challenge.
"We committed to a $2.9 billion ceiling with a $200 million average annual allocation," he said, "which necessitates a 15-year buildout. Some of the things we're attempting to balance in the allocation schedule are community needs, marketing needs, leveraging opportunities as well the fact there were eight valid questions and 13 districts, together with municipalities and widespread stakeholder groups."
In a briefing to commissioners Tuesday, Mr. Hernstadt identified about 40 of the more than 300 programs in line for a share of the bond money approved by voters in a November 2004 referendum.
Mr. Barreiro shared his interpretation of the categorizations Conforming, Slightly Adjusted and Modified Allocation Schedules to the rest of the subcommittee.
"If they're conforming, they're getting almost what they want when they want," he said. "If it's slightly adjusted, it's a smaller deviation from what they wanted when they wanted it. If it's modified, it's not exactly what they wanted."
The distinctions between projects, said Mr. Johnson, remained open to discussion.
"It's a blueprint," he said, "and it needs to be looked at continually and needs to be updated annually, and that's what we will do."
"We'll be coming back as part of the budget every year," said Mr. Hernstadt, "and determining the specific list of projects in the resolution associated with that bond sale. We recognize the need to have a plan for the 15 years but understand that, due to shifting priorities, we may have to move projects up. It may be a question of trying to find an appropriate piece of property. It may take a little longer than we anticipate."
"The shift," said Mr. Johnson, "has to be within the categories."