Coral Springs officials at odds over proposed bond issue

The fate of Coral Springs’ proposed $18.1 million bond issue on the March ballot hangs in the balance with the mayor and the vice mayor being at loggerheads over the issue.

While Mayor Skip Campbell believes it is not a good idea to ask voters for another tax hike — the third in two years if it were to happen — Vice Mayor Larry Vignola is in favor of asking residents if they are willing to take on the additional burden for the sake of improving the city’s facilities. At a meeting last Wednesday, two of the four city officials present — Vignola and Lou Cimaglia — were in favor of putting the issue on the ballot, while Joy Carter supported Campbell’s view.

The city proposes to use the money to pay for the construction of a new West Side Complex and a parking garage on the site. It also intends to build a new Police Department humane unit, expand the Fire Academy and purchase a new public safety command vehicle.

At a previous workshop where the issue was discussed, three officials — Vignola, Cimaglia and Commissioner Dan Daley — were in favor of putting the issue on the ballot, while Carter opposed the idea. Campbell did not attend the meeting.

The City Commission will have to officially decide by the end of November if it wants the issue on the ballot. The choices before the city officials are voting in favor of having the referendum as it is, taking some projects off the list and asking the voters to approve a smaller bond issue, or not go before the voters at all.

The referendum will fail if the City Commission decides to go ahead with it, said Campbell. He advocated putting off the projects for a couple of years while the city worked on the projects that are being funded by the bond issue that passed in 2014.

“Timing is everything,” Campbell said. “All these projects are needed, but I don’t see an urgency to get it done now. If you go to the public too often, you will fail. …Use your common sense and your political sense. You are asking people to pay more taxes. I don’t think it is going to pass. I don’t think it is good for the future of the projects.”

Vignola said he did not want to take a political decision on the issue. “I will never understand political perspective; I am not a politician. I want to do what is good for the city. We are doing all that have been neglected over the years. We have excellent staff; our facilities don’t match the staff we have.”

Campbell said he had many residents complain to him about the proposed bond issue; Vignola said he had not heard anything negative about it. “We are not asking for money here” said the vice mayor. “We are just asking our voters to make a decision. I don’t see any benefit in kicking the can down the road.”

The additional burden on the average single-family home owner, if the city goes ahead with the proposed bond issue and the voters approve it, will be $34. “We are talking peanuts here,” Vignola said. “It is not a lot of money. I don’t see how it is going to hurt anybody.”

“Rising taxes on a three-times-a-year basis is not acceptable to a lot of people,” said Campbell. “You will be making a bad decision if you go ahead with the bond issue. If you go to the trough too often, it will dry up.”

Cimaglia was in favor of going ahead with the bond issue. “If we tell our residents what we plan to do with the money, I don’t see them voting against it. Let us take the bull by the horns and get this thing done.”

“I don’t like the idea of asking people for more money,” said Carter. “I don’t want them to be angry with us. We already have a lot of big projects on the table.”

City staff will now hold individual discussions with the five city officials to find out where they stand on the issue. While removing some of the projects on the list and going for a smaller bond is an option, the city may decide that it makes better financial sense to fund the projects using a bank loan.

The design and construction of the West Side Complex is expected to cost $11.1 million, while the estimated cost of the parking garage is $1.6 million. The Fire Academy project, which includes expansion of the building and the parking area, is estimated to cost $4 million. The public safety command vehicle will cost $950,000, while the cost of construction of a new humane unit is $350,000.

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