Lakes Gets Green Light For Mills Worth Of City Tax
By Sebastian del Marmol
County commissioners agreed unanimously Tuesday to let the Miami Lakes area vote on incorporation in exchange for one mill of property taxes from the new city.
County Manager Merrett Stierheim said the plan, which includes paying the county a percentage of the proposed city’s property tax revenues to mitigate the county’s loss, moves Miami-Dade in the proper direction on incorporations.
He said the Miami Lakes incorporation movement was the first whose organizers understood that piecemeal incorporation would harm those left out of cities.
"It boggles my mind how people can be in a dream world and think we can create money out of thin air," Mr. Stierheim said. "The Miami Lakes group is the most rationale and reasonable group we have dealt with. The negotiations have been give and take."
He said the plan is not everything he had hoped for but he recommended it nonetheless.
Wayne Slaton, chairman of the Miami Lakes Advisory Committee for Incorporation, said area residents acknowledge that they pay more in taxes to the county than they get in services and are willingly to contribute to a Municipal Service Trust Fund to reduce the impact.
"In the past it has been each city for itself. That is no longer politically correct," Mr. Slaton said. "This plan will benefit Miami Lakes and the surrounding communities."
Mr. Stierheim said the money generated by the mill tax would mostly be used for police services in Carol City and Liberty City.
Mr. Slaton said should residents vote to incorporate, the area would still get county fire, library and solid waste services. He said Miami-Lakes would privately contract with Miami-Dade police for protection.
Commissioner Miriam Alonso supported the plan but questioned county staff about the impact incorporation would have on nearby communities also looking to incorporate, such as Country Club Lakes and Palm Springs North.
Despite Mr. Stierheim’s assurances that services would still be provided, Pedro Reboredo asked for a deferral until those questions were answered.
Natacha Seijas-Millan disagreed.
"We cannot put a stop to what Miami Lakes is doing. It’s unjust," she said. She said the county should honor the process and let the incorporation vote take place. Afterward, Ms. Seijas-Millan said, other concerns can be taken up.
While several residents from areas also hoping to incorporate supported the Miami Lakes vote, they cautioned the county against using the plan as a model.
Kenneth Blue, representing the Committee for Incorporation of Kendall, said he hoped the plan didn’t set a precedent for his area and others.
"The needs of Kendall, Palmetto Bay and other areas are unique. Each area has to have its own design," Mr. Blue said.
Morgan Levy, president of the West Dade Federation, which supports incorporation of the Doral area, said if the Miami Lakes plan is adopted the city must raise taxes or go bankrupt.
"I am convinced that they will regret the concessions," Mr. Levy said.
He said the plan would reduce Miami Lakes to a "second class" town that will have to carry the financial burden of the rest of the county.
Mr. Levy also said it is unfair to make new cities pay added costs while existing cities don’t.
Mr. Stierheim said existing cities could not be forced to pay added taxes to support unincorporated areas. He also said future incorporations must include provisions to account for the rest of the county.
He said the past three incorporations of Key Biscayne, Aventura and Sunny Isles Beach effectively resulted in tax increases for the balance of the county.