“Miami Forever” bond

The first proposal you’ll see on your ballot will read like this:

Authorizing General Obligation Bonds for Capital Projects in an aggregate principal amount not exceeding $400,000,000.00 Shall the City issue General Obligation Bonds in an aggregate principal amount not exceeding $400,000,000.00 with interest payable at or below the maximum rate allowed by law, payable from ad valorem taxes levied on all taxable property in the City, provided that the capital projects debt millage not exceed the current rate of 0.5935, to:

  • Reduce Flooding Risks; Improve Stormwater Infrastructure
  • Improve Affordable Housing, Economic Development, Parks, Cultural Facilities, Streets, and Infrastructure
  • Enhance Public Safety?

Maybe you’ve heard of this already. The City of Miami has dubbed it the “Miami Forever” bond and there’s been a pretty major advertising campaign for it.

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.

This general obligation bond is $400 million. Almost $200 million of that will go toward efforts to make the city more resilient to sea level rise. Another $100 million will go to efforts to create more affordable housing in Miami. Parks and cultural facilities will get $78 million, $23 million will go to road improvements, and $7 million will go to public safety.

Commissioners voted 3-2 to send this to a citywide vote. Although general obligation bonds are usually paid for with tax increases, the City says that there will be no tax increase in this case because the new debt taken on for the Miami Forever bond will only come into effect as debt from a previous bond is paid off. So, essentially, we’re carrying an existing tax for longer. Without the Miami Forever bond that tax would have expired.

Some of the city unions are opposed to the bond because they say they’re still owed back wages and benefits from the recession, when the city of Miami cut those back wages and benefits to help balance the budget.

If you vote yes, you will be approving the city to take on $400 million in debt to bolster its resilience to sea level rise, expand affordable housing, etc. The City has been clear it will not raise taxes to finance this bond. It can’t do that, even if it wanted to, without putting it up for a vote. Editor’s note: This paragraph has been updated to correct the city’s options in regard to taxation.

If you vote no, the City of Miami will have to find the capital for these projects somewhere else, or not do the projects at all.