To the Editor:
Last week the Beacon published a letter from Cookie Potter Feinberg discussing GIBA’s decision to send out an opinion survey regarding possible ad-valorem taxes levied to support the financing of our new bridges.
In the letter she claims “there was one very important detail missing” with respect to the tax, misquoting the “bond specialist” in saying “the tax needs to be in effect for 30 years … even if the bonds are paid off before that time.”
In actuality, the GIBA Board was very explicit in insisting that the tax be levied for no longer than the debt is outstanding. They felt strongly that any tax monies be strictly dedicated to pay for the debt and not used for any other purpose (such as operating expenses). The debt is expected to be retired prior to its stated maturity (not to exceed 30 years) based on excess cash flow that will be generated from the required debt service coverage ratio mandated in the financing documents. The survey letter clearly discloses the term of any potential tax by stating in the second paragraph that” … the tax would no longer be levied once the debt is retired.”
In her letter, Ms. Feinberg also parenthetically attempts to correct which bridges the three options are to fund. Once again, the survey language is correct in stating that all three bridges are being funded, not just the swing bridge as she suggests. The Bank of America line of credit for the fixed bridges is a 2.75 year construction loan which will be taken out with the permanent financing for both the fixed bridges and the swing bridge in late 2013 or early 2014.
The tone and inference in Ms. Feinberg’s letter was unfortunate at best. Rather than trying to slip one by the citizens, I believe GIBA and the board have diligently tried to inform the public regarding a potential ad valorem tax. The purpose of the opinion survey was to educate citizens as to possible tax and toll options, and allow them to express informed opinions prior to the board meeting on April 25. At this meeting, the board is expected to decide whether or not to proceed with a tax referendum … and if deciding to proceed, the millage and term of the tax to be placed on the ballot for November. These are important decisions from both a pocketbook and philosophical perspective. Opinions vary greatly among our citizens regarding these issues, as expected. Given the complexity of constructing and financing a capital project of this scale, it is critical that the citizens be aware of the facts and not be swayed by misinformation. They deserve no less.
Bill HolmbergChairman, Finance CommitteeGasparilla Island Bridge Authority
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