Florida Gov. Rick Scott last week asked the state’s elected Cabinet to withhold approval of $15 million of new capital outlay bonding for education.
Scott, who is debt-averse, asked for an analysis from the State Board of Education about the local school district projects to be funded with the debt. Fellow Cabinet members voted unanimously for Scott’s motion to remove the item from the agenda.
It was the first time in memory that the Cabinet withheld approval for a bond sale requested by Ben Watkins, director of the Division of Bond Finance.
Watkins had explained that Florida’s constitution allows school districts to request the financing.
“These projects are at the election of the local school districts,” he said. “They are supposed to be [the district’s] highest-priority needs.”
The Cabinet did approve the sale of $65 million of education capital outlay refunding bonds that accompanied the request for new-money debt, and also granted Watkins the authority to sell $92 million of refunding bonds requested by four state universities.
In a report on issuance this year, Watkins said that as of last week, his agency had offered 13 transactions totaling $1.75 billion. Of that amount, refundings totaled $1.375 billion.
The Division of Bond Finance last week sold $170 million of Florida Forever environmental project refunding bonds that were not included in the total. Another $241.5 million refunding is being readied for sale.
“We’ll have outstanding authorizations to do refinancings of $565 million,” Watkins told the Cabinet. “That will keep us busy between now and Thanksgiving — maybe even the end of the year.”