This Nov. 7, 2017 City Commission meeting was held shortly after the bids for the $200 million Wave Streetcar project came in too high. The project appeared to be in serious jeopardy. [Months later it would be cancelled.]
Questions were being raised about getting the special Wave tax assessments refunded. Commissioner [now Mayor] Dean Trantalis raised the issue with City Manager Lee Feldman in this exchange:
DT: You can take those questions in any order that you want.
LF: So let me deal with the assessment one because that’s probably the easiest one. So the assessments were put on property tax bills. The property tax bills are out. There’s no continual assessment. If — borrow, uh, a bad — probably a bad pun — but that train left the station for this year, uh, when the property tax bills went out. So people pay their property taxes, the assessment is collected and it’s remitted to the city to sit in [inaudible] the fund.
DT: What happens to that money, then, if it’s determined that the, that the project is not going forward?
LF: So we have an obligation to turn that money over to the DDA within a certain number of days of receipt. The DDA holds it. It’s there to provide debt service on the State Infrastructure Bank loan, and I believe that money right now is just sitting in a trust fund. Uh, I don’t know [cross-talk]
DT: You say the State Infrastructure Trust Fund — this is money to be used for the project.
LF: Right, so — the State Infrastructure Bond. Uh, so, the commitment for — one of the commitments that we had was to put in 20 million dollars, plus or minus, that was raised through an assessment. The original intent of that was to put the assessment in place and to float a bond with the assessment.
DT: I understand.
LF: In lieu of floating a bond, we were able to go to this State Infrastructure Bank and take out a loan — or the DDA took out a loan — uh, which is backed by the assessment that is collected. So we collect the assessment — the County collects the assessment to the Property Tax Collector — gives us the money, we give it over to the DDA. The DDA is then responsible for paying the debt service on the, on the loan from the State. But I don’t believe any debt service has been paid yet because the loan has not been …
DT: We have — it hasn’t been funded.
LF: The loan has been funded. They have not needed to call …
DT: They have not drawn on it.
LF: Or, drawn on it.
DT: Correct. So the money is sitting there in the trust fund for, for that purpose.
DT: Okay, so, if the State decides to opt out of the project, then that money would be available to us for reimbursement to the homeowners.
LF: Uh, it would be my opinion — non-legal opinion — that that would go back to the properties that generated it.