Miami demanding county pay up on garage fees
By Yudislaidy Fernandez
The City of Miami is asking Miami-Dade County to pay up $940,000 it claims two departments owe the city for more than four years of unpaid parking surcharge on 14 county-operated lots, city officials say.
The city hopes to get the county to comply with the surcharge levy, but if that approach doesn't work a lawsuit could follow, city officials say.
Miami's Department of Finance rounded up city commissioners' support to approve an ordinance that amends the city's code clarifying language on its parking facilities surcharge.
The city charges a monthly surcharge - equaled to 15% of a parking facility's monthly revenues - to all parking garage and lot operators in the city.
Collections total about $13 million to $15 million annually from the parking surcharge, said Chief Financial Officer Larry Spring in a later interview.
The money collected is used to improve transportation within the city and reduce ad valorem tax millage, the ordinance reads.
The county's General Services Administration- and Transit-operated parking facilities stopped paying the surcharge in 2004, owing the city $943,000 in overdue collections.
City Attorney Julie Bru told city commissioners the dispute between the agencies is about "whether the city can lawfully impose that surcharge."
The code clarifications should help make the city's surcharge ordinance more in compliance with state law, said Diana Gomez, the city's finance director.
Tweaking the code also allows the city to "inspect records of parking facility operators," she said.
Parking operators have to comply with the city parking surcharge by making monthly payments from the moment the facility begins charging drivers to park.
Mr. Spring said it is common for the city to have an operator late in making a monthly payment, but the county has refused to pay the parking surcharge on those 14 lots for years now.
Ms. Gomez said in an e-mail this week that Parking Network, the city's parking surcharge administrator, has sent monthly collection notices to personnel in both the General Services Administration and Transit and the department directors have also been notified of outstanding payments.
Transit spokesman John Labriola said a state statute protects the department from having to pay the parking surcharge because it affirms that administration buildings, public mass transportation facilities and ancillary facilities are within the county's excusive jurisdiction even if located in the city.
He said his department has responded to the city's notices informing them that payments were made under a mutual parking agreement that expired in 2004.
The General Services Administration did not respond to requests for comment on the city's claims.
Although city officials at the meeting said steps have already been taken to resolve the payment issue with the county, City Manager Pete Hernandez asked the administration to meet again with county officials and County Manager George Burgess before taking further action.
He said if that approach fails, then the city will have to go through the legal process, "which between governments involves a dispute resolution and if that is the only course of action, I recommend that we initiate it."
Mr. Spring in a later interview agreed that suing the county is a last resort.
"We don't like to enter into litigation with the county," he said. "It's not our intent when dealing with all these issues with administration to administration."