Questions about Redevelopment financing, Part 1 PDF Print E-mail
Written by Joe Krakoviak   
Thursday, 23 July 2009 22:56

We encourage residents to raise concerns, ask questions and engage in dialogue with the Mayor, the town's financial adviser on the project, and Town Council members either by attending the public and council meeting or initiatiing direct contact. We've drafted some questions to consider asking. We'll post the answers as we can obtain them.

Questions about Recourse vs Non-Recourse
Background: The Town Council approved an amended application from the redeveloper for a long-term tax abatement on February 3, 2009. That application listed the town's issuance of Redevelopment Area Bonds (RABs) as "non-recourse," meaning the town and its taxpayers did not guarantee repayment. On May 26, 2009, the Mayor announced the $47.9 million in issuance would be "recourse," or guaranteed by the town and taxpayers.

1. What market or project conditions changed between these two events to justify this turnaround, since the credit crisis was well underway in February and if anything has improved since then?
2. What entity or entities suggested and/or indicated that investors would not buy these RABs? What person or persons specifically provided this advice? What exactly did they say? Was this information conveyed in writing? If so, why isn't this documentation made public on the town's website to support your contention that recourse is the only option? 
3. Did this entity or these entities advising on this issue mention or discuss that potential RAB investors would only accept a higher interest rate on the bonds? If so, what was the advice on the difference in interest rates for these RABs recourse vs non-recourse?
4. Lower interest rates on recourse RABs significantly lowers the cost of the project, which can allow a lower price structure for the condos while increasing profitability to the redeveloper and increasing the PILOT revenue to the town. Isn't this one of the reasons, if not the primary reason, that the proponents decided to switch to recourse?
5. Why should taxpayers accept the risk of the project to lower the redeveloper's financing costs -- since if taxpayers wouldn't be on the hook for the inability of the project to pay back the bonds, they wouldn't care what the interest rate is?

Questions about school taxes
Background: The Redevelopment financing package effectively exempts the district property owners from making PILOTs to the school district. This amounts to about $3.3 million annually, once the project is completed in 2017, that would have gone to schools if the property was on the tax roll. This exemption runs until 2038.

1. Why should the Edison condo owners and redeveloper be largely exempt from paying school taxes over the next 30 years?
2. Who first proposed to cap the Edison Village property owners' annual increase in PILOTs to 3 percent, as the Mayor wrote in his message on the town website? When was that decided? Has this ever been done in other redevelopment projects in New Jersey? If so, where? Why did the Mayor also reduce the duration of the 3 percent annual cap on the PILOTs from 30 years to 20 years in his message? Won't that reduce the attractiveness of the condos to prospective buyers? If this "cap" information is incorrect, how was this mistake made and why was it kept on the website for weeks?

Questions about Redeveloper profit and contribution

1. In Mr. Benecke's Powerpoint presentation at the June 30 Town Council meeting, he says the redeveloper's "cash return" is less than 3 percent. What does "cash return" mean? What exatly goes into that calculation, in terms of type of factor and the amount of each factor?
2. In the February 2009 resolution approving the redeveloper's revised application for a long-term tax abatement, the redeveloper's "total annualized return on equity" was 15.04 percent. What does "total annualized return on equity" mean? What exactly goes into that calculation? How much is the equity used in each year of this calculation?
3. What is the total dollar value of profit that the redeveloper is projected to earn from Phase 1? What is the total dollar value of profit that the redeveloper is projected to earn from the entire project?
4. What is the annual rent the redeveloper projects from the retail space in each of the first full 10 years after the space is built?
5. In the February 2009 revised application for a long-term tax abatement, the redeveloper said it would finance Phase 1 with $73 million in construction financing, $14.75 million from the RAB issuance, and $38.7 million of "developer cash equity." Is this still correct? How has this changed?
6. The Mayor and the town's financial adviser on the redevelopment repeatedly say the redeveloper will "invest" $75 million in the project before the town contributes any funds. What are the different forms of investment, their amounts and what entity is contributing each one?
7. Who are the shareholders/owners of Prism Capital Partners? Why do you consider this information proprietary when the Town's financial advisor on redevelopment says he knows who they are?
8. What is the breakdown of Prism Capital Partners' financial contribution to the project, both up to this point and planned? How much has the firm spent or committed of the firm's equity?

Questions about Community meetings

1. The meetings are scheduled for various times in August, the summer month that often sees the most vacations, and in September on the first day of school. Some residents have expressed concern that the timing will limit the opporutunity for the maximum number of citizens to participate. Why can't more meetings be added and the council's vote on any new Redevelopment financial proposal be postponed? What's the rush? 
2. If the four Town Council members who are to vote on any proposal want community input, are they planning to attend all the meetings? Wouldn't they be helped by video-recordings of the meetings they miss that they can review?
3. The Mayor and Town Council have spoken about their desire to educate residents about the proposal and hear their opinions. It would seem that video-recording the three "community forum" meetings and making them available on television and the Internet would contribute to that goal. Are the Mayor and Town Council in favor of video-recording the meetings and making the recordings available to consituents? If they are, are the meetings going to be recorded? If not, why not? Would you be opposed to professional recording of the meetings if done by residents?

Questions about Federal investigation of New Jersey public corruption

1. Given what has happened recently with public corruption arrests in New Jersey, has the town, its employees and officials, its advisers or any other entities or people associated with Main Street Redevelopment been contacted by investigators associated with that investigation or received subpoenas or other requests for information? If so, what were the nature of the inquiries? [UPDATE: Deleted reference to indictments, since none have yet taken place.]

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