Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Replacing the St. Augustine Beach Pier: Here's How.

Our St. Johns County officials are wondering how to get the money to replace the County Pier in St. Augustine Beach.

Here's how:

1. Support the St. Augustine National Historical Park and National Seashore (www.staugstgreen.com), with a public-private partnership to build a new pier, including restaurants, a fish market and a farmer's market and a civil rights museum honoring the wade-ins at St. Augustine Beach, where the ocean was segregated until Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. inspired wade-ins in 1964 by African-Americans. (Currently, there is only a small sign by the bocci courts). What a teachable moment in an historic place -- today's young people find it inconceivable that under Jim Crow segregation in Florida -- American Apartheid -- even the Atlantic Ocean was segregated. As a result of the wade-ins and other creative nonviolent St. Augustine Movement activism, LBJ was able to defeat the Senate segregationists' filibuster and signed the 1964 Civil Rights Act on July 2, 1964 -- two civil rights monuments are in our St. Augustine Plaza de la Constitucion a/k/a "Slave Market Square."

2. Use tourist bed tax funds to pledge to sell bonds, at 1.25% interest over 30 years. Florida Statute 125.0104(5a)(5b) & (5d) provide:

(b) Tax revenues received pursuant to this section by a county of less than 750,000 population imposing a tourist development tax may only be used by that county for the following purposes in addition to those purposes allowed pursuant to paragraph (a): to acquire, construct, extend, enlarge, remodel, repair, improve, maintain, operate, or promote one or more zoological parks, fishing piers or nature centers which are publicly owned and operated or owned and operated by not-for-profit organizations and open to the public. All population figures relating to this subsection shall be based on the most recent population estimates prepared pursuant to the provisions of s. 186.901. These population estimates shall be those in effect on July 1 of each year.
(c) A county located adjacent to the Gulf of Mexico or the Atlantic Ocean, except a county that receives revenue from taxes levied pursuant to s. 125.0108, which meets the following criteria may use up to 10 percent of the tax revenue received pursuant to this section to reimburse expenses incurred in providing public safety services, including emergency medical services as defined in s. 401.107(3), and law enforcement services, which are needed to address impacts related to increased tourism and visitors to an area. However, if taxes collected pursuant to this section are used to reimburse emergency medical services or public safety services for tourism or special events, the governing board of a county or municipality may not use such taxes to supplant the normal operating expenses of an emergency medical services department, a fire department, a sheriff’s office, or a police department. To receive reimbursement, the county must:
1. Generate a minimum of $10 million in annual proceeds from any tax, or any combination of taxes, authorized to be levied pursuant to this section;
2. Have at least three municipalities; and
3. Have an estimated population of less than 225,000, according to the most recent population estimate prepared pursuant to s. 186.901, excluding the inmate population.
The board of county commissioners must by majority vote approve reimbursement made pursuant to this paragraph upon receipt of a recommendation from the tourist development council.
(d) The revenues to be derived from the tourist development tax may be pledged to secure and liquidate revenue bonds issued by the county for the purposes set forth in subparagraphs (a)1., 2., and 5. or for the purpose of refunding bonds previously issued for such purposes, or both; however, no more than 50 percent of the revenues from the tourist development tax may be pledged to secure and liquidate revenue bonds or revenue refunding bonds issued for the purposes set forth in subparagraph (a)5. Such revenue bonds and revenue refunding bonds may be authorized and issued in such principal amounts, with such interest rates and maturity dates, and subject to such other terms, conditions, and covenants as the governing board of the county shall provide. The Legislature intends that this paragraph be full and complete authority for accomplishing such purposes, but such authority is supplemental and additional to, and not in derogation of, any powers now existing or later conferred under law.

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