To the Editor:
On Nov. 6, voters who expect to vote for or against a Gasparilla Island Bridge Authority ad valorem property tax will instead be asked to vote for or against bonds. The official ballot language (appearing as the last ballot item) is as follows:
GASPARILLA ISLAND BRIDGE AUTHORITY
LIMITED AD VALOREM TAX AND BOND REFERENDUM
November 6, 2012
In addition to toll revenues, shall Gasparilla Island Bridge Authority levy an annual limited ad valorem tax not exceeding 0.30 mills to secure bonds, to be issued in one or more series in a principal amount not exceeding $48,000,000, bearing interest at not exceeding maximum legal rate, maturing not more than 30 years from issuance to finance/refinance costs of replacing existing fixed and swing bridges and roadway replacement?
Yes For Bonds ________
No Against Bonds ________
This language relating to "For Bonds" and "Against Bonds" is explicitly required under Florida Statutes. The bonds referred to on the ballot are tax-backed bonds (which could be publicly offered bonds, privately placed bonds or some other form of indebtedness such as a loan agreement or bank financing).
If the referendum fails, it would not affect the ability of GIBA to issue bonds backed by toll revenues, which historically have been the sole security of all prior GIBA indebtedness.
To vote "For the Tax" - VOTE "Yes - For Bonds"
To vote "Against the Tax" - VOTE "No - Against Bonds"
With respect to the finance plan for the new bridges, GIBA is applying for state funding of the Swing Bridge through the Florida State Infrastructure Bank. If the terms of our application are approved by the state as submitted, the financing costs of the entire project would be significantly reduced - to the point that the existing tolls (at the $6 cash and $3.90 discount level) could possibly provide sufficient revenue to cover the financing costs without the tax or additional toll increases.
A decision is expected from the state in November, but unlikely before Nov. 6. While we are hopeful, there can be no assurance that the application will be accepted, and if accepted, that financing and legal terms offered by the State Infrastructure Bank will be favorable.
Suffice it to say that GIBA continues to evaluate alternative financing plans designed to minimize the need for additional tolls and/or taxes to fund the replacement bridges.
Finance Committee chairman
Gasparilla Island Bridge Authority