Miami Dolphins can pay for Miami-Dade referendum

County, team negotiating over cost of renovations at Sun Life Stadium

MIAMI - The director of the Florida Division of Elections says the Miami Dolphins can pay for a referendum so Miami-Dade County voters can decide if local hotel bed taxes can be used to help pay for renovations at Sun Life Stadium.

The Dolphins offered to pay for the local referendum, estimated to cost estimated between $3 to 5 million.

In an letter released Friday, Maria Matthews, director of the Florida Division of Elections, wrote that "Florida law does not prohibit the private financing of a public election."

READ: Matthews' letter

"As I have stated before, the taxpayers of Miami-Dade County should not be forced to shoulder the cost of this election since it is being brought about by a request from a private party," Mayor Carlos Gimenez said in a statement. "This is an important ruling that will give Miami-Dade County voters final approval over whether tourist development tax dollars should be used for this purpose without having our taxpayers bear the cost of the election."

Gimenez met with Dolphins chief executive officer Mike Dee Thursday night to continue negotiations. Their meeting went into Friday morning but no agreement was reached.

"In no way shape or form would this mayor ever bring to you a deal with financing as atrocious as we've had for the Marlins stadium," said Gimenez.

"This is a process that is advancing," said Dee. "Time is short, as it has been documented, but we're confident that we can get a deal done in time for referendum in May."

The Dolphins have offered to pay the county and the state back the money it receives from a sales tax rebate of $3 million a year for 30 years.

The state legislature is considering a bill that would authorize the rebate and also raise the hotel bed tax in mainland Miami-Dade by one percent, which would give the Dolphins $120 million. Under the Senate version of the bill, the Dolphins would have to compete for that money with other professional sports franchises in the state.

The Dolphins say that their 25-year-old stadium needs $390 million in improvements to remain competitive with newer stadiums around the NFL.

The Dolphins and San Francisco 49ers, who will move into a new stadium next year, are vying for Super Bowl L in 2016.  The loser will compete against the Houston Texans to host Super Bowl LI in 2017.

NFL team owners will announce the locations of Super Bowl L and LI on May 22 in Boston.

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