The Tampa Bay Times has published an editorial mentioning the proposal made here to redirect pier money to the Police station (Articles on Pier). Unfortunately, the Times thinks we can have both a taxpayer financed pier ($50 million down payment to start this project) and a new police station ($62 million first estimate). They challenge the City Council to solve the problem and ignore the real ability of the city to work to include the police station in the TIF (Tax increment Finance) zone that now exludes it by a block and half (more on TIF’s here in previous post: TIF Post )
The Times also does not get one fact quite right. They state that $50 million in property tax money is “Set aside” for the pier. Actually, the $50 million would need to come from a new bond – a loan that the taxpayers would have to pay back. That bond would be leveraged against projected future tax revenues from that multi-block downtown TIF zone. It is based on property values that may go down with economic hard time as had occured with the Bayboro TIF zone in the past. $5 million of that would be for debt service alone. If the city can ask taxpayers to borrow money for a Pier, it would be more appropriate to ask the citizens to borrow money for a police station through a $32 million bond. That is better math
$32 million bond (not a $50 million bond) + $32 million from Penny for Pinellas = New Police Station!
The following response was posted by this author to the Tampa Bay Times Editorial.
“We can have both. Here is how:
1. Put a city referendum forward to allow a long term lease for the pier. Then offer that lease to a private company and let them design the pier as they see fit with certain limitations for public use. They pay for it and no tax dollars are needed.
2. Take out a bond for the police station to finance it. Use a voter referendum if needed. Ensure that the project is scaled back to a point that is reasonable on cost and get rid of cost wasting “green building” initiatives that are too pricey for taxpayers and mere political stunts. Alternatively, go ahead and do the hard work of redrawing the TIF districts to include the one and a half block area that includes the police station.”