Property tax change could strap bond program
By Lou Ortiz
The property tax relief initiative voters approved statewide in January could affect Miami-Dade County's Building Better Communities General Obligation Bond program.
The initiative doubled the state's homestead exemptions to $50,000. A portability provision allows homeowners in some instances to take their 3% Save Our Homes property valuation cap to a newly purchased home after selling their former home.
The property tax initiative may affect bond program projects "that consequently impact the operational budget," Johnny Martinez, director of the county's Office of Capital Improvements, said in a report to the county commission.
"Projects currently being implemented and scheduled for future implementation will be evaluated during the annual budget process by the Office of Strategic Business Management," he said.
Voters approved the $2.9 billion bond program in 2004 to fund municipal and Miami-Dade projects over 15 to 20 years.
Repayment of the bonds is tied to revenues the county will get from property taxes for the next 40 years. The county intended to fund $200 million a year in bond projects.
The projects that get fast-tracked depend on community needs, leveraging opportunities and project scope, according to Miami-Dade's Web site.
The bond program earned $20 million in interest last year on a current $260 million bond issue. County commissioners considered using the interest money to keep scheduled projects on track but agreed to give half to Florida International University's fledgling medical school.
Commissioners say they intend to adopt a formal policy for future use of interest money.
Mr. Martinez' report was expected to be presented to the county commission's Governmental Operations and Environmental Committee this week.
During the fourth quarter of 2007, money being spent on countywide projects totaled $340 million.
The county is spending $175 in design and construction projects, $86 million on municipal agreements and an additional $16 million in municipal agreements that are in the process of being completed.
The county has also spent $52 million to acquire land and $11 million for grants to non-profit organizations that are being processed, the report shows.
Of the 521 county project sites at various stages of development, 92%, or 478, are on schedule, the report said.
"Over the past quarter, we have continued to make significant strides in implementing" the program, Mr. Martinez said.
The 92% on-time rate marks an improvement over last fall, when 13% of projects were behind schedule by 180 days or more.
"Moving forward, during the second quarter of fiscal year 2008, design is scheduled to be completed for important projects such as the renovation and expansion of Jackson South Community Hospital," Mr. Martinez said.
Other renovation and expansion projects, he added, include West Kendall District Park, MetroZoo improvements and countywide water and sewer upgrades.
Also scheduled to be completed, he said, are construction at Black Point Park & Marina, renovation of South Miami Branch Library, the City of Miami Grapeland Water Park and a number of countywide drainage improvements.
The planned $525 million Florida Marlins stadium is to get $50 million from the program.