Missing Auditors Could Delay Spending Of Miamidades New Transit Tax
By Frank Norton
Three months after voters put faith in a half-cent tax plan to improve transit, Miami-Dade County lacks the auditing group needed to OK its use.
Passed in November, the ordinance levying the tax requires a citizens’ watchdog group to oversee spending. The group was to be named by March, but that now appears unlikely.
April is the new target for appointing the group; also the month transit sales tax returns will start rolling in, said Danny Alvarez, who heads the Office of Public Transportation Management, created to oversee the funds. Without the Citizens’ Trust group, he said, the county will be unable to spend any money collected for promised improvements.
The tax took effect on Jan. 1 in order to begin financing a $17 billion mass transit overhaul plan countywide. So far, this tax is being banked on to finance more buses and services, a nearly $200 million upgrade of the Metrorail and Metromover systems and 90 miles of new rapid transit lines.
Delays in naming the oversight team are blamed on a complex nominating process, outlined in the referendum, according to the Citizens’ Transportation Advisory Committee. The first layer involves 20 county-selected civic groups naming a temporary nominating committee; those appointments were just made last week.
"It’s not the commission’s fault that the nominating groups didn’t make their decisions until just now," said advisory committee member Lee Swerdlin.
"We’re very concerned because there is a lot riding on this," he said. "If we fail to implement the plan as voted by the taxpayers, the next time we have to go to them for any kind of funding they’re going to say ‘two strikes and you’re out’."