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Week of 10/19/01 - Miami News Today

Half-billion targeted for City of Miami capital projects
By Paola Iuspa

Miami could see almost half a billion dollars enhance streets, parks, bridges and museums within 10 years if voters approve a bond issue that could add millions to projected revenues. Nov. 13, Miamians will decide if the city should issue $255 million in bonds to improve infrastructure and be repaid by property taxes. Administrators said another $214.1 million is already planned to upgrade infrastructure.

"The proposed combined capital program is $469.1 million," Robert Nachlinger, assistant city manager, said last week during a commission meeting.

As part of the referendum, about 50% of the proposed Homeland Security and Neighborhood Enhancement bonds would be allocated for parks and recreation, 21% for streets and drainage, 12% for public safety, 15% for quality of life and 2% for historic preservation.

The city would start issuing bonds by 2003 and would do so in phases until 2013, Mr. Nachlinger said.

Commissioners Arthur Teele Jr. and Johnny Winton developed the bond idea to inject money into the depressed economy and create jobs.

Mayor Joe Carollo said Friday he might veto the ruling. On Tuesday he did not return phone calls about the issue.

"By the time the bonds are issued in 2003, it would be too late to boost the economy," he said last week.

If the bond issue passes, commissioners have agreed the funds would be for capital improvements rather than to maintain facilities that were neglected for years, during which the city did not issue any bonds,

"This is not a maintenance issue," Mr. Winton said. "It is a capital improvement issue."

By borrowing up to $255 million, officials say they won't need to increase the $1.218 per $1,000 of property assessed value that residents pay the city to offset the current debt of $130 million, including interest, and to be paid off in 2017. But variables can affect the city's capacity to borrow $255 million without raising taxes.

The proposed bond is based on the historic 4.5% average growth in the city's property values from new construction and reassessments, Mr. Nachlinger said.

"If property values go up," he said, "the city's bond capacity goes up. If property values go down, so does the city's capacity to borrow money."

The administration plans to use the growth in the tax base along with the decline in annual debt service costs. Administrators also say they will be able to refinance part of the existing debt, if the bond issue passes, to free up $325,000 annually to pay off part the new debt.

Projects earmarked to benefit from the bond issue include:

n$10 million for Bicentennial Park.

N$25 million for planned Little Haiti Park.

N$4 million for Margaret Pace Park.

N$2 million for Miami Marine Stadium.

N$16 million for the Orange Bowl.

N$3 million for Coral Way renovation.

N$6 million for Eighth Street improvements.

N$10 million for downtown infrastructure upgrades.

Each of the five commission districts would get $5 million for infrastructure needs. Commissioners have promised $3.5 million for the Miami Art Museum and $3.5 million for the Museum of Science, both planning to build in Bicentennial Park.