A referendum question asking Loxahatchee Groves voters whether they favor a bond for up to $6 million to pave roads is on the Tuesday, March 14 ballot.
If approved, the bond would be repaid solely through local-option gas tax revenue or from the town’s share of the county surtax recently approved by voters. It would have no effect on ad valorem tax rates, according to Town Clerk Virginia Walton.
The Town Charter states that the council cannot borrow money above a small amount, and it has to be paid back within three years, Walton said.
“As the residents know, we did three charter amendments on last year’s election,” she said.
One of them was to allow the council to borrow money, and it failed. This second attempt refines the language to be more specific, stating how the money will be used, and how the money will be repaid.
Walton explained that the bond’s approval would allow the town to repair and pave roads more quickly.
“You can’t fix the roads in Loxahatchee Groves with the way the charter reads,” she said. “[The previous referendum question] was voted down because we were told by the residents that it was too vague. It sounded like we were just opening up the town to borrow whatever we want, wherever we want. That was not the intention, but that was the way it was interpreted.”
Walton said the town’s office receives constant complaints about the condition of the roads. Staff researched and found that the town can borrow a specific amount of money to pave the roads, using anticipated gas tax revenue as collateral.
She said the gas tax money has been used in the past to maintain the roads, but there has not been enough to significantly improve them.
“We can promise that gas tax money to repay the loan, therefore there would be no assessments, and there would be no increase to any of the residents’ taxes,” Walton said. “It woyuld just be the existing bond that we would go for would guarantee that the only money used to pay it back would be the gas tax money that we already currently receive.”
If the gas tax money should decrease during the life of the 30-year loan, the lender would accept that decreased amount, Walton said.
“In other words, now we would not have to come up with money out of the town coffer to make up the difference,” she said. “There is also that new infrastructure one-cent sales tax [increase] that just went through, and the town will be getting a portion of that. That is for infrastructure, so that will actually be a plus that the town will have additional monies to possibly do more roads.”
Walton said the town has done a survey of the roads most in need of paving.
“Those are the ones that we’re going to go after and get them in good condition,” she said. “The one-percent sales tax will be extra money in the town coffer so that we can possibly do additional roads.”
Walton stressed that the referendum would enable the council to approve only the $6 million bond issue, and only after a public hearing.
“It’s just this one thing,” she said. “In order for any deviation from the charter, there has to be a referendum vote. This is a deviation from the charter.”