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Referenda 4, 5, and 6: the General Obligation Bond

Miami Beach is putting $439 million in general obligation bonds on the ballot.

A general obligation bond is debt that cities take on, usually to bring in capital (a.k.a. money) for big projects, often infrastructure improvements, that they otherwise don’t have the funds to do. These bonds are basically backed by a city’s ability to tax residents and also its credit rating.

Miami Beach will fund these bonds by raising property taxes over the next 10 years. According to the Herald, additional taxes would max out at an additional $82 for every $100,000 in taxable property value.

The City of Miami approved a $400 million general obligation bond last year that was pretty similar, but theirs was one lump sum. In this case, Miami Beach broke it down into three bonds focused on funding three different things, and each will need voter approval.

Referendum 4 is focused on recreational and cultural facilities, like parks:

To improve the City’s parks, recreational facilities, and cultural facilities, including playgrounds, baywalks, beachwalks, waterways, landscaping, equipment, lighting, security, and parking related to such facilities, shall the City be authorized to issue general obligation bonds, from time to time, not exceeding $169,000,000 in aggregate principal amount, payable from unlimited ad valorem taxes, bearing interest not exceeding the maximum legal interest rate, and maturing no later than 30 years from issuance date?

Referendum 5 is focused on infrastructure improvements to accommodate things like bike lanes and pedestrian paths, as well as sea level rise mitigation projects.

To improve the City’s neighborhoods and infrastructure, including stormwater and flooding mitigation projects, sidewalk and street renovation and repairs, protected bicycle lanes, pedestrian paths, landscaping, and lighting, shall the City be authorized to issue general obligation bonds, from time to time, not exceeding $198,000,000 in aggregate principal amount, payable from unlimited ad valorem taxes, bearing interest not exceeding the maximum legal interest rate, and maturing no later than 30 years from issuance date?

Referendum 6 is focused on public safety.

To improve the City’s police, fire, and public safety facilities, equipment, and technology, and to improve lighting and security throughout the City, shall the City be authorized to issue general obligation bonds, from time to time, not exceeding $72,000,000 in aggregate principal amount, payable from unlimited ad valorem taxes, bearing interest not exceeding the maximum legal interest rate, and maturing no later than 30 years from issuance date?

If you vote yes on these, you’ll be approving a property tax increase in order to pay for all of these improvements. Renters, you might see this show up in higher rent, and property owners will definitely see a small uptick. You can see the full breakdown of how they plan to spend the money on the GO bond website or in the city’s voter guide.

If you vote no, the city will be limited to spending whatever it currently brings in via existing revenue sources, such as taxes and allotments from the county and state, to make the improvements mentioned above.

It is totally possible to vote “yes” on one element of the general obligation bond and “no” on another element.