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City to offer loan for new public golf course Thursday

The city could kick in money for the new public golf course after all. But it won’t be the $20 million the buyer wanted.

Instead, Councilman Andy Thomson suggested floating a second loan to the Greater Boca Raton Beach & Park District.

The offer will come up at the joint public meeting on the golf course at 5 p.m. Thursday [Sept. 12] in the city’s 6500 Congress Ave. building.

“Let’s allow the district to use the city’s Triple A bond rating and pay us back over time,” Thomson suggested at Monday’s workshop. The district’s already paying back a city loan for the former Ocean Breeze golf course in Boca Teeca.

The district is considering raising its millage/tax rate by as much as 30 percent. The board will vote on the tentative rate at the first public hearing 6 p.m. Wednesday [Sept. 11] in the boardroom at the Swim & Racquet Club. A regular meeting is 6:30 p.m.

Council opposes a tax hike, Thomson reminded council members. “But they have this golf thing hanging over their head,” and other projects.

A loan could be an alternative to “prevent a tax increase,” he said.

Council sent a formal letter to the district offering to build the 18-hole course on the west side or the entire project. The city would use its own golf course designer and heard plans from several a few weeks ago. The district’s Price Fazio team submitted a design for the course the city hasn’t approved.

The loan could work without affecting the city’s bond rate, said city manager Leif Ahnell.

“We would borrow the money for them for the east side…and that shouldn’t affect our debt service,” he said.

“We’re in consensus to consider this,” said Mayor Scott Singer. “I don’t want to give them a lot of cash now and they overspend on something else.”

“We’re not saying carte blanche or giving them a blank check,” agreed Deputy Mayor Jeremy Rodgers.

The district knows about the loan offer.

“I listened to Andy Thompson’s comments at the workshop last night. I also spoke with him earlier in the day,” said Briann Harms, interim executive director. “He has worked with the city manager on an offer to give the district a revenue bond which would help cover the cost of upcoming projects. I asked him to put something on paper for us to review if this was a serious option.

“A revenue bond may not be the right fit for the district and the annual payment would need to work within our budget,” Harms said. “Without concrete numbers, it’s hard to make decisions on the budget.”

The district has projects the city no longer pays for that have to be factored in, she added.

“The revenue bond was to cover projects on city properties. The district will have to prioritize projects that we fund as well as ones that we manage entirely,” she said.

The board of commissioners will discuss the loan if it’s put in writing, she added.

“We did receive a letter from the city after their previous city council meeting and that will likely be discussed.”

By Marci Shatzman

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