ACTION, Hills., Jim Norman Stadium Vote 10/3
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---------------------------------From:Dee Layne deelayne@...Subject: CHAMPIONSHIP PARK ON 10/3 BOCC AGENDA
Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2007
BOCC Board Meeting
JIM NORMANS CHAMPIONSHIP PARK
ACTION: PLEASE CONTACT COMMISSIONERS (see below), ATTEND BOCC MEETING & SPEAK DURING 9 AM PUBLIC COMMENT (be sure to sign up early)
REQUEST THE $40,000,000 SET ASIDE FROM THE CIT MONIES BE SET FOR PUBLIC HEARING AFTER 5 PM TO DECIDE WHAT TO DO WITH THE MONEY: Championship Park or desperately needed infrastructure throughout the county.
BOCC Board Meeting
County Center, 2nd Floor Boardroom
601 E. Kennedy Blvd.
Contact: Denise Layne, Executive Director
Coalition 4 Responsible Growth, Inc.
Agenda Item B-6 at 10:30 am time certain
The $40,000,000 Jim Norman Stadium will be discussed by our BOCC. Whether you support or oppose the use of this Community Investment Tax money for this project, we need to make sure our DUE PROCESS rights are being protected. The CIT process involves an evening public hearing for any decisions on the use of the CIT funds. The bocc earmarked this money during the CIT process; put it on hold for a study; and it now needs to continue the CIT process PUBLIC HEARING!
As if the use of our tax dollars for this project isnt controversial enough, Budget staff sent the BOCC the attached warning of less CIT monies expected due to upheavals in the mortgage and housing markets (below). Goodness, this letter is a warning of already $98,600,000 less than expected by 2026!!! This will also be discussed at Wednesdays BOCC meeting.
The BOCC might try to slide a vote in at this regular meeting. We MUST demand a public hearing on the use of this $40 million. Lets put this issue to rest once and for all protecting the communitys due process for the use of OUR tax dollars.
Please write to your commissioners: (cut and paste)
and attend the BOCC meeting for 9:00 am public comment on Wednesday with the following request:
THE $40,000,000 SET ASIDE FROM THE CIT MONIES BE SET FOR PUBLIC HEARING AFTER 5 PM TO DECIDE WHAT TO DO WITH THE MONEY: Championship Park or desperately needed infrastructure throughout the county.
HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY LETTERHEAD
Date: September 26, 2007
To: Board of County Commissioners
From: Mike Merrill, Director, Debt Management Department
Subject: Update on CIT Debt Capacity
Recent economic events involving upheavals in the mortgage and housing markets have had an effect on the Countys projected collection of CIT revenue and, consequently, the future debt capacity of that revenue stream. I want to update you on the impact that these economic factors, together with changes in capital project costs, have had on the Countys ability to fund future capital needs.
Forecasted collections of CIT revenue for FY 07, 08 & 09 combined are now $6.8 million lower than previously projected. This change is attributable in large part to widespread economic troubles both in the U.S. and abroad stemming from subprime mortgage lending and speculation, as well as a related downturn in the housing market. The compound effect over the remaining life of the CIT from the short-term loss of revenue in FY 07-09 may result in about $93 million less available funding for capital projects.
The related effect on the debt capacity of the CIT has become apparent in our recent discussions with bond rating agencies and bond insurers who are concerned about overly optimistic assumptions on future revenue growth. In connection with a proposed CIT bond issuance I intend to recommend to the Board on October 3, rating agencies have expressed reluctance to assume greater than a 3% near to mid-term annual growth rate for the CIT. This is one-half of the 6% average annual growth we have been assuming based on historical performance. The more conservative approach of the rating agencies is largely due to widespread uncertainty in the bond market about the longer term effects of subprime mortgage lending and housing downturns on the general economy.
On August 1, I told the Board that approximately $480 million in future CIT revenue is projected to remain after taking into account CIT projects adopted as part of the CIP plus the Transportation Task Force recommendations. That projection was made prior to the brunt of the mortgage/housing market meltdown hitting the economy and was based on assumed averageannual CIT growth of 6%. The $480 million estimate also assumed $98.6 million less in future CIT Phase II & III project costs than was adopted by the Board on September 20. Those increased funding requirements will incur more interest cost due to greater borrowing needs. In addition, FY 07 expenditures will be $11 million higher than I projected owing to the defeasance of a commercial paper note in November 2006 that I had not taken into account.
Although I continue to use an average annual growth rate of 6% beginning in FY 2010 and beyond, after taking into account the effect of lower near term CIT revenue collections and higher project costs, remaining CIT revenue through FY 2026 is now projected to be about $213 million versus the August 1 estimate of $480 million. This lower revenue projection would still have provided sufficient funding for future jails using the estimated cost of $100 million I was given in late July, but certainly not sufficient to fund the $250 million need identified by the Sheriff in his August 8, 2007 letter. Nor would it cover the additional $100 million need for court related capital projects identified in the late August 2007 letter from the Chief Judge.
If the funding requirement for jails and courts do reach the levels stated in the abovementioned letters from the Sheriff and Chief Judge, and if the available CIT does not grow beyond the projected $213 million, there are funding alternatives the Board could employ that do not require new or increased taxes. Three outstanding bond issues, the debt service for which is paid from the State Shared Half-Cent Sales Tax (not the CIT), will be fully repaid by the years 2016, 2022 and 2024. Additional bonds issued at those points in time with the same annual debt service would generate about $280 million in bond proceeds to pay for capital projects.
Obviously, much could change in this picture over the remaining 20-year life of the CIT. Greater revenue growth, slower spending or lower project costs might all result in more available resources than are currently forecast. The bottom line at this point is that I believe the CIT projects included in the adopted CIP and the $500 million in Transportation Task Force projects can be funded, with about $213 million in CIT revenue remaining to meet future needs.
I am making arrangements to brief each of you individually before the October 3 Board meeting. Meanwhile, if you have questions please call me at 272-6576.C: Pat BeanDan Klein Kris Landkammer Wally Hill Carl Harness Lucia Garsys Eric Johnson Sam Hamilton Tim Simon
H:\Users\MERRILLM\CIT\Series 2007 CIT Bonds\BOCC update on CIT debt capacity.doc
Can Sports Facility Be A Winner?
PLANT CITY - Banana spiders weave giant webs between the trees, and insects buzz and flap everywhere, joining the occasional cow in a countryside serenade.
For nearly two years, life has run its natural course on Cone Ranch as politicians, bureaucrats and analysts have envisioned another reality for one of the last major plots of undeveloped land in Hillsborough County.
The plan - the brainchild of County Commission Chairman Jim Norman - is to carve soccer fields and baseball diamonds into the landscape. Enough people will come and pay to play on Championship Park's fields that all the county's other parks will benefit, Norman predicts.
The plan's fate is expected to be decided Wednesday when county commissioners debate whether to endorse Norman's vision and release up to $40 million in public money to build it.
Critics question the park's value, its remote location and whether it will make good on Norman's promise of paying for itself. They call it a vanity project, an expensive monument to Norman's long-standing boosterism of youth athletics.
Norman rejects such criticisms, saying he wants to sell everything from naming rights to soda contracts. 'People from out of town would pay the tab,' he said. 'Local kids would take advantage.'
Championship Park would sit on roughly 425 acres of more than 12,000 that Hillsborough owns north of Plant City. It was initially purchased as a wellfield for Tampa Bay Water, which still owns easements and water rights to the site.
The land is closer to Pasco and Polk counties than to many parts of Hillsborough.
'It's not a good use of our tax money,' said Dave Kulow, who lives in southern Hillsborough County. 'There's a lot better use and more immediate needs than a park.'
Neighboring property owners worry about the effect on their rural setting. A study commissioned by the county predicted that nearly 90,000 people would attend events at Championship Park its first year, 143,000 annually by its 10th year.
'The traffic. The litter. The lights and all the roads,' Charlotte Butler-Nelson said, listing just a few of the reasons she hopes Championship Park is never built. 'Every small road out here is going to be impacted.'
Roads Show Signs Of Strain
Only two-lane roads lead to Cone Ranch.
The park's entrance likely would be on East Knights Griffin Road, an east-west thoroughfare that Butler-Nelson travels when she shops in Lakeland.
Bern Kincaid, a Lakeland rancher who leases land for cattle grazing on Cone Ranch's southern border, also often travels Knights Griffin. He had not heard about Championship Park until last week, when Butler-Nelson briefly explained the proposal.
His reaction? 'They're going to have to make improvements to the road.'
Norman said he expects that many of the people who use Championship Park will come from neighboring Pasco and Polk counties. Others will arrive via Interstate 4, about five miles to the south.
That will bring them up State Road 39. One stretch south of Cone Ranch has received an 'E' rating, which means that with its current traffic, it is already near failing status. Most other roads around Cone Ranch have 'C' ratings, meaning they're beginning to show signs of strain.
Norman said Championship Park would not seriously affect those routes because many of the park's users would travel during nonpeak hours.
Norman Sees A 'Crisis'
Norman said he has tried for months to dispel misconceptions about Championship Park, including one about wanting to name the park after himself.
That's not true, he said. He wants to sell naming rights to the project, even for individual fields within the park.
He also has battled the idea that the money could be spent on county programs facing elimination in next year's budget.
Property taxes are not being considered for the park. Instead, Community Investment Tax money would pay for the project's estimated $37 million price tag. That half-cent sales tax was approved in 1996 by voters to pay for Raymond James Stadium, as well as roads, stormwater systems, libraries and parks.
To make his case for a need for the park, Norman has pointed to figures from the county's Parks, Recreation and Conservation Department that show existing fields are overcapacity. Seven of Hillsborough's 19 baseball fields are operating at more than 100 percent of their intended usage; two of the seven softball complexes and four of the county's six soccer facilities are similarly burdened.
'We're in a crisis,' Norman said. 'You're just seeing the tip of the iceberg.'
Even with Championship Park, soccer and softball fields countywide still would operate at more than 100 percent of their planned capacity, according to one county report.
Critics Aren't Swayed
In 2005, commissioners set aside $40 million of CIT money for Championship Park, but the money cannot be spent unless commissioners release it Wednesday.
Commissioner Rose Ferlita said she sees nothing in the justifications for Championship Park that would make her support it. 'It's a pet project,' she said.
Residents frequently urge her to vote against it, and she said it has gained a derisive status comparable to other publicly funded projects seen as unnecessary.
'It is 12,000 Riverwalks,' Ferlita said, referring to an oft-maligned Tampa project.
Commissioner Ken Hagan, himself a former youth coach and collegiate baseball player, said he isn't sure how he'll vote. 'I am having some sticker shock with the $40 million cost,' he said.
Hagan and Ferlita are among those who question the scenarios compiled by a consulting firm, one of which predicted Championship Park would generate nearly $370,000 after expenses its first year. Other scenarios have the complex losing money its first five years and making a profit thereafter. One boom scenario predicts the park can make more than $1.2 million in profit its first year.
The consultants said hotels and restaurants need to be built nearby for the park to succeed, although Norman said he doesn't think that's necessarily true.
None of the scenarios sway Championship Park's critics.
'They've got no verifiable data,' said Ronnie Bayliss, who lives about three miles from the proposed park site and has studied the consultant's report. 'It was just a bunch of statements that were unsubstantiated.'
Indeed, the initial 162 page-report prepared by the Leib Group, a Wisconsin firm specializing in the sports and entertainment industries, was filled with pages of history of amateur sports. One 28-page section chronicled the development, structure and history of professional soccer in the United States.
Supporters Say It Will Work
Norman insists the park's multipurpose fields and baseball diamonds could be booked year-round with teams coming from cold-weather climates.
He's not alone in thinking the business model would work.
Plant City Mayor Rick Lott has endorsed the plan and will present it to commissioners Wednesday.
Some of the park's bookings may come from two local colleges, the University of Tampa and University of South Florida. Athletic directors from both schools have endorsed Championship Park.
UT athletic director Larry Marfise said the school likely would use Championship Park to host collegiate baseball and soccer tournaments. He expects other leagues to pay to use the facility as well.
The availability of fields and first-class clubhouse facilities would draw people to Championship Park, Marfise said. He doubts its distance from Tampa or the presence of a similar, Disney-run facility in Orlando would diminish its attractiveness, as some detractors think. 'People are fanatics,' he said. 'They'll take their kids to the ends of the earth to play games.'
Only Final Score Counts
Standing on the shoulder of Knights Griffin Road, where a path may one day meander back to clusters of baseball diamonds and soccer fields, Butler-Nelson had trouble seeing the benefit.
The area is the way she likes it, with cows grazing in the distance, monarch butterflies touching down briefly in the waist-high grass, ospreys gliding overhead.
'A sports park won't play into this picture,' she said.
There will be too much congestion and noise with little gain for residents, Butler-Nelson said. Even if the park makes money, it won't help residents of northeastern Hillsborough. 'It's not even going to stay in the area,' she said.
Norman sees the landscape differently, with Cone Ranch's natural setting blending in with acres of tailored grass, chalk baselines and cheering fans.
Perhaps it's fitting then, that on Wednesday, Norman will see the fate of Championship Park decided on a scoreboard.
This one is 25 miles away in the county commission chambers, an electronic board that tallies each commissioner's vote.
Yeas in green, nays in red - and Norman hoping he's on the winning side.
Reporter Anthony McCartney can be reached at (813) 259-7616 or amccartney@....