The Nov. 6 ballot will determine whether Boca Grande property owners pay a .30 mil property tax increase.
The increase would cost the owner of a $1 million home $300 in new property taxes annually. If approved, the money will be directed to help pay for the estimated $40 million bridge construction project.
Unscientific polling has indicated the Boca Grande property tax increase measure could fail. If it does not gain a majority vote, the Gasparilla Island Bridge Authority will consider raising the tolls, which increased 20 percent to $6 Oct. 1.
Bill Holmberg, GIBA Finance Committee chairman
A critical piece of financing information could be released by the state just ahead of the election although it could come after the election, too.
GIBA's bridges have made the short list of six projects in consideration for a possible $30 million loan at 2 percent interest from the State Infrastructure Bank administered by the Florida Department of Transportation.
"Those funds could pay for the entire construction cost of the Swing Bridge," said Jim Cooper, GIBA executive director. "We're supposed to know by Nov. 1. It's reasonable to expect some sort of funding."
Gasparilla Island Bridge Authority
limited ad valorem tax and bond referendum
Island residents can approve or reject a .30 millage increase on the Nov. 6 ballot. Funds would help pay for the new bridges.
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 million, 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 (and the property tax increase)
No - Against Bonds (and against the property tax increase)
Editor's note: Information in parentheses will not appear on the official ballot.
The SIB loan could preclude the need for GIBA to raise tolls again.
"If the SIB goes through, (GIBA) won't need to raise the tolls again at all," said Bill Holmberg, GIBA Finance Committee Chairman at a July GIBA meeting.
GIBA's loan request is in a favorable position, said Amy Davies of CDM-Smith, who has worked successfully with the State Infrastructure Bank in the past. No other bridge projects are under consideration.
If the SIB loan request fails to connect, however, the GIBA Board has also discussed how important the property tax income increase could be.
Holmberg suggested the GIBA consider cutting the discount fare even more to encourage approval of the property tax. Balancing the bridge-building burden equally on the backs of the three constituencies - residents, workers and day-trippers - are his biggest concern.
Commissioner Lee Major, however, said GIBA should not be pushing for approval of the property tax at all.
"It's for the islanders to decide," Cooper said.
In lieu of the property tax increase of loan infusion, the highest toll increase discussed by GIBA has been $8.50.