homepage logo

Cape council to consider GO bond referendum

By Staff | Apr 30, 2011

Cape Coral City Council is expected to decide Monday whether to put a General Obligation bond referendum on the ballot in November.
Ordinance 24-11, if approved by council, would ask voters if they want to allow the city to issue up to $315,000,000 in GO bonds to re-finance the city’s short-term utility debt with bonds to be repaid by a new citywide property tax.
Officials say if the referendum passes, they will be able to reduce utility rates.
Councilmember Kevin McGrail, who sponsored the ordinance, said council could push the vote back since the item is being eyed for the November ballot, but council could also vote on Monday when the proposal is scheduled for its final and only public hearing.
City spokeswoman Connie Barron said council is only required to have one hearing.
McGrail said if council does not approve placing the GO bond on the ballot, they will have to come up with another plan, something they have yet to do with with the Committee of the Whole — or COW — meetings.
“I’m starting to call them dead cow meetings,” McGrail said. “Everything old is new again.”
McGrail thinks that short of restarting the utilities expansion project, even in specific areas, the city is running out of options to reduce utility rates for those on the system.
As those bills for water and sewer service increase over the next five years, it will be tougher to attract anyone to the city, he said.
“When you see water and sewer bills of $150 … people are going to start asking themselves, why do we want to move there?” McGrail said. “We don’t want to stall our recovery, chasing people away because of our water rates.”
Financial Advisory Committee Chairman Don McKiernan said they had not discussed the GO bond as a committee and as a result have not yet taken a position.
They plan on doing so at their next meeting, he said.
He predicts the bond would “split” the city between those who bear the total cost and those who do not, but thinks the bond could meet voter approval.
“My guess is it would be approved, but it’s an unscientific guess,” he said.
Former FAC Chair Steve Riggs said the educational component of the process would be key, making sure that voters understand how the bond would affect them specifically.
City finance staff plans on putting a “web widget” online so people can calculate what it would mean them as taxpayers.
Riggs said that even if the bond is approved by a majority vote, it still wouldn’t address the city’s long- term utility problems, or the debt associated with current revenue bond.
The only way to do that, he said, is to bring more people on line.
“The greatest opportunity to remediate the fees is to get back with the master plan and get people on the system,” he said.
He also said business owners would have a hard time supporting the GO bond proposal, as they pay higher monthly fees and usage costs on commercial meters.
“What kind if trade off are they getting for an ad valorum increase?” he asked.