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Cape council to discuss utility GO bond proposal

By Staff | Apr 21, 2011

The General Obligation Bond is still on the table for city council as a means to fund Cape Coral’s utility debt, and the public will get its first full look at the proposed ordinance during council’s workshop Monday.
Cape Budget Administrator Sheena Milken said the GO Bond would be a not-to-exceed amount of $315 million and could be placed before voters as early as the Sept. 13 Primary election.
City council, though, leaned toward making the item available during the November general election instead, as the general election culls more ballots than the primary.
“You have more people voting and it will be better for the residents,” said Mayor John Sullivan.
Should the issue go to voters, and be approved in November then the city would venture into the bond market in January or February of 2012.
The GO Bond would not actually take effect until FY 2013, according to Milken.
If approved, proponents of the bond say financing method would reduce utility rates by spreading costs across a broader base.
As tendered, the city would issue bonds secured by property taxes to refinance current utility expansion project debt, which is secured by rates.
The GO bonds then would be re-paid by all property owners.
Property owners not serviced by city utilities, would see a new tax. For property owners on the system, though, the new levy to repay the bonds would be more than offset for most by the projected lower rates, officials said.
Milken said a “Web Widget” will be available on the city’s website so voters can calculate how the GO Bond would affect them, if approved.
Sullivan worried the Web Widget would confuse people and then sway their vote based on wrong information.
“They aren’t going to understand this; I don’t think we should put them in a position where they could make a mistake and vote the wrong way,” Sullivan said.
Councilmember Chris Chulakes-Leetz felt the option of the GO Bond is vitally important to give citizens a hand in deciding how the Utilities Expansion Project is going to move forward.
“I’m totally in support of this — citizens and residents will have the opportunity to decide how they want to pay,” Chulakes-Leetz added.
TRIM notices are due in August. City Manager Gary King said that will give citizens enough time to calculate the impact of them, but added that if council were to decide to put the item on primary ballot, they might receive a better bond rating.
“In August we will have most current, real value of the property,” King said.