Cities protest proposed Miami-Dade administration fee that would take some stimulus money
By Risa Polansky
Miami-Dade municipalities shouldn't have to turn over a portion of their federal stimulus rations to the county to cover administrative costs, city leaders say.
North Miami Mayor Kevin Burns drove the effort to put the brakes on the proposed practice at a Metropolitan Planning Organization meeting last week, insisting it's unfair to pay the county for work he says the municipalities will do the bulk of themselves.
The organization, made up of county commissioners and other local elected officials, is responsible for transportation planning here.
Miami-Dade Transit is the designated project manager for transit stimulus projects in the county, but "they're not going to do our reporting, they're not going to do our day-to-day work…. Transit is not doing the legwork — our cities are each doing the legwork," Mr. Burns said.
Hialeah Mayor Julio Robaina said diverting some of the funds to administration would "go against the intent" of the $787 billion federal stimulus program.
Miami-Dade is to receive $69.8 million toward transit projects, $13.9 million of which municipalities are to split based on population.
The aim, Mr. Robaina said, is "to use this money wholeheartedly and fully to put people back to work, to purchase products made in America, and for those monies to be put into this community immediately."
Piped up Miami Beach Mayor Matti Bower, "I feel the same way."
But, said David Clodfelter, chief of budget, audit and reporting for Miami-Dade Transit, the administration money is needed "for a litany of reporting activities" the feds require.
The county is proposing charging the municipalities 5%, historically the "standard administration fee" collected when Miami-Dade helps administer city projects, he said.
County Commissioner Katy Sorenson pointed out that somebody has to deal with administration.
"It's not going to magically do itself," she said.
She noted also that "accountability is going to be one of the key issues" as the federal government monitors the stimulus program, so it makes sense that the "department has to account for its costs."
Otherwise, "the alternative is to not charge that money, then the county eats it and then we have fewer transit projects we can do," she said.
County Commissioner Sally Heyman agreed, telling fellow planning board members that, realistically, "we have to deal with the bureaucracy."
She later asked what would happen if the county didn't charge an administrative fee.
Assistant County Attorney Bruce Libhaber said that, without a charge, Miami-Dade Transit would absorb administrative costs.
It didn't sway city elected officials.
Mayor Burns of North Miami questioned whether the cash-strapped transit department might be eyeing the 5% "to cover other budget things."
Cities should be allowed the option to pay the county for administrative work but should not be forced, he said, proposing the planning board approve stimulus package projects only on the condition the 5% administration fee is not mandated.
The planning organization does not have the power to govern dealings between municipalities and the county, attorney Mr. Libhaber qualified.
The legal equivalent, he said, would be a resolution expressing a desire that no administration fee be passed from the county to the municipalities.
The measure passed with only three dissenters: county commissioners Sorenson, Heyman and Javier Souto.
The bulk of the transit stimulus projects the municipalities plan are geared toward circulator and trolley services, as well as bus shelters.