An interesting comment went relatively unreported last week. When asked about the borrowing cost for completing the LENS, the administration finally admitted it would be about $10 Million over the life of the bonds.
The problem is the TIF revenues have only produced about $37-$38 million so far. The City and the LENS team has been spending it like water on consultants, construction managers and experts all designed to produce more CYA than results.
So to get the money needed to actually build the iconic LENS, the City will go on the hook for an additional $20 million or so to complete the build. It would look like the actual cost of the LENS, assuming no cost over runs (not a very likely scenario) will be more like $60-$70 million including debt service.
Look for an open ended bond financing resolution, so the LENS team can go back and get more money if they need it with no serious restrictions.
The TIF (Tax Increment Fund) revenues, which are paid by tax payers in the designated TIF area, will be pledged to pay the bonds.
A nice bunch of bankers and investors will make a cool $10 million or so from the LENS deal. Talk about laughing all the way to the bank.
Sounds good. Let the folks in the TIF pay for the LENS and support the bankers/investors and the rest of us will just ignore the thing.
It is possible that over the life of the bonds the TIF Revenue will run out or be insufficient to cover the principal and interest debt service. Then all of the tax payers get to help pick up the tab.
What is so maddening about all of this is the LENS is being pushed as a way to lower the City's subsidy to the Pier, about $1.4 million annually. If someone would come up with a cost to maintain the structure, scrape the Pelican poop off the walk way and those fancy aluminum panels and add in the debt service there is a good chance the City is once again on the losing side of the equation.
We have not done that yet because the numbers just might not work out for the LENS team, and the last thing they need is another problem.
That extra $500,00 per year being paid as interest could sure go to some good projects in St. Pete. This was to be a pay as you go project when Mayor Baker conceived it, not and in debt up to your ____ as the Mayor and Council have morphed the project.
What's the rush? Why borrow the money? Just wait until the TIF funds are sufficient to do the project. The rush is the few people driving this project know it is now or never.
Apply some fiscal sense and some common sense and no person in their right mind would touch this thing with a 10 foot pole.
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Have your say. Be sure to get a petition for the Pier Referendum and complete it properly. Information and schedule of events at Stop The Lens.