Monday, September 29, 2014

Pinellas County PSTA Interlocal Agreement Review - Section 10

Pinellas County Voters are being asked to approve a law (The GreenLight Plan) that would provide for an open ended 1% increase in the County sales tax.

You can read a review of the actual law you will approve if you vote yes at Sales Tax (GreenLight) Ordinance Review

Due to pressure from opponents of the Greenlight plan and the Sales tax ordinance, the Suncoast Transit Authority and the Pinellas County Commission found it necessary to develop the Interlocal Agreement before the election to add some direction to how the revenue from the 1% sales tax will be spent and to attempt to add some clarity regarding the suspension of the current PSTA Ad valorem property tax. 

The following document is a reproduction of the Pinellas County Interlocal Agreement with the Suncoast Transit Authority approved by the Pinellas County Commission.

The text of the Agreement appears in italics     My Comments appear in Bold regular text.

The following actions shall require prior written consent of the County, unless and until the Surtax levy is terminated pursuant to Section 9:

What is interesting here is "consent" is not defined. Who can issue "consent"; the County Attorney, Chairman of the County Commission, County Administrator?

There is no requirement here for the entire County Commission to vote on any "consent" issued.

(A) Any amendment to PSTA's enabling legislation that would amend the membership of the PSTA Board of Directors so as to reduce the percentage of representation of the County on the PSTA Board of Directors to less than thirty-three percent (33%) or that would otherwise be materially adverse to the County hereunder, and that is initiated by PSTA through a vote of its Board of Directors.

In this Section the County assures its 33% presence on the PSTA Board.  The objective is to be somewhat in control.

(B) Any substantial amendment to PSTA's Greenlight Plan.

No definition of substantial. Also note the word amendment. Is a change an amendment? How big a change?

Is dropping the bus expansion substantial? Since the train route will likely be determined by the big YES GreenLight donors, developers and real-estate people, lok for these to be "changes" and not "Amendments".

(C) PSTA's entering into any joint venture or partnership (other than a public-private partnership) or interlocal agreement with respect to PSTA's Greenlight Plan that is materially adverse to the interests of the County.

It would seem here that a public/private relationship that is adverse to the County's interest is OK.

(D) PSTA's debt and investment policies, which shall be provided to the County prior to the distribution of any Surtax Net Proceeds to PSTA hereunder, and any material amendments thereto.

Interestingly this Section calls for the PSTA's investment policy to be submitted to the County but does not state that County approval is necessary only written consent.

 Now you know why the investment houses are lining up to support Greenlight.

(E) Any amendment to the Trust Agreement which would be materially adverse to the County; provided, however, notwithstanding the foregoing, only consent of the County Attorney shall be required with respect to this Section 10(E).

Here the County Attorney, who is not elected, has full authority to give "consent"

PSTA shall provide written notice to the County when seeking approval of any action requiring County approval pursuant to this Section. The County shall either approve or deny the consent
request in writing in a timely manner. When requested by PSTA to approve or consent to any of the items in this Section 10, the County shall use its best efforts to provide either written approval or denial in the timeframe requested by PSTA, so long as the requested timeframe is reasonable. If the County is unable to provide its written approval or denial within the timeframe requested by PSTA, the County shall so advise PSTA in writing and provide an estimate of the time necessary to respond to PSTA's request. Notwithstanding anything contained herein to the contrary, the County shall not unreasonably delay any approval, shall not unreasonably withhold any approval, shall not cause PSTA to be in breach of any agreement, law, regulation or jeopardize PSTA's ability to cost effectively incur debt as contemplated by PSTA's Greenlight Plan or cause any of the events set forth in Section 9 (C), (E) and (F) in exercising its right to participate in and approve any of any of the items in Section 10.

You might want to reread the paragraph above. Kind of makes you wonder who is really in charge.

Note this quote from the above paragraph "or jeopardize PSTA's ability to cost effectively incur debt as contemplated by PSTA's Greenlight Plan" here the Interlocal Agreement clearly states the PSTA's Goal and the Greenlight plan's primary objective "incur debt".

Once pledged to the debt which will be in the form of bonds the sales tax is locked in and the funds cannot be used for anything other than the bond debt service. The bond proceeds can only be used as defined in the Bond covenants. The County will no longer have any control over what PSTA does.

Section 10 also affirms the County's right to approve any changes to the GreenLight Plan when they are asked by PSTA for their approval.

Watch My Video Green Light - It's a Bad Law before you vote.

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Disclosures: Contributor to
No Tax for Tracks.

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