Vice Mayor Brett Moss explains position on proposed bond referendum

The bond referendum to issue General Obligation Bonds (GOBs) that will be on the November ballot asks voters:

Shall the Village issue general obligation bonds not exceeding $100 million in one or more series maturing not later than thirty years from their issuance dates … [to] mitigate effects of sea level rise and flooding; to protect Village beaches and shoreline; and to harden infrastructure to the effects of hurricanes?”

But what does this mean?

Before moving forward, I voted in favor to place the referendum on the November ballot to allow residents to decide if councils should have the option to choose GOBs as a finance mechanism for future long-term infrastructure projects.

It’s not my intention to persuade anyone to favor or oppose it.

Many residents I’ve spoken to don’t fully understand what this referendum means. After reading articles and emails from constituents, it’s clear that confusion and misinformation exists. It is crucial voters understand the referendum before taking a vote.

Some have heard misleading information such as: the village is asking for “$100 million in debt” during “very difficult times”; asking for an “immediate injection of $100 million” when there are no “shovel ready” projects; asking voters to “approve a bond” without accurate bids, project plans timelines and terms; this gives our government a “blank check”; we need to borrow immediately to “lock in low interest rates”; and ,that it will add “burden” on taxpayers during times of “unprecedented financial pressures.”

This referendum does not ask for debt, nor does it issue a bond. Our government does not need an immediate injection of $100 million.

So, what is being asked and what are the residents voting on?

The referendum asks the voters to allow general obligation bonds to be considered as a finance option for future infrastructure projects:

- To mitigate effects of sea level rise and flooding

- To protect village beaches and shoreline

- To harden infrastructure to the effects of hurricanes.

The not-to-exceed $100 million originated from a public strategic planning session, where the manager presented a list of projects with a rough cost estimate allocated to each.

The request for not-to-exceed-$100 million is above our current debt cap of 1% of assessed property values (about $80 million). As property values rise and fall, so does the debt cap. Unless the proposed charter amendment to eliminate GOBs from being calculated as debt against the debt cap is approved by voters, the village can not exceed the current debt cap at any point in time -- regardless of the not-to-exceed $100 million amount on the referendum.

Complex projects of these magnitudes are staggered and begin at different times. They take many years, if not decades, to plan and complete. Historically, property values rise over time. It’s reasonable that $100 million may well be within the debt cap in the future.

If the referendum passes in November, it doesn’t negate the fact that projects must be part of an approved strategic plan and annual budget. The manager must provide project details -- plans, accurate bids and timelines -- and present them to the public and receive council approval before proceeding.

Additionally, a supermajority (5 of 7 minimum) council vote must occur to decide to borrow money.

Why is the council interested in the GOB? Because historically, it provides the lowest interest rates when compared to other finance options, as well as a longer payback period (30 years) for each issued bond. Allowing an additional finance option allows council more choices.

Why is this ballot question being pushed so quickly? What’s the rush? There are two reasons.

- One is efficiency of time. Referendums are costly and time consuming. Construction costs are sensitive to time and typically increase quickly. Not all projects will begin at the same time and the larger ones may need to be phased. When a project, or a portion, is “shovel ready” with a detailed bid, we would be in a position of uncertainty for a long period of time waiting on a possible referendum approval while construction costs increase. Further, it’s inefficient and costly to go through a referendum for each individual project.

- Second, timing. This council recognizes that a presidential election will yield the largest voter turnout during an important referendum vote, increasing public involvement.

Those who say it’s a “small group” pushing the bond should welcome a November referendum since the “silent majority” will be able to make the decision. I have yet to meet anyone in Key Biscayne who doesn’t think fiscal responsibility is a top priority, however, I recognize that the meaning differs to many.

I personally will respect all thoughtful perspectives of the pros and cons, and either outcome to this referendum. Either way, the council should continue to focus on the village’s long-term issues and infrastructure projects that will benefit us all, whether general obligation bonds will be a finance option or not.

We leave that decision to you.

Brett Moss,

Vice Mayor, Village of Key Biscayne 


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