Stop ‘taxing’ Miami-Dade Fire Department


As the story of the Miami-Dade Fire Rescue budget cuts continues to evolve, I want to provide some valuable information to our fire district family. Your fire department exists to protect your life and your property. We do this through emergency medical services and firefighting services.

Miami-Dade Fire Rescue is almost completely funded by property taxes paid by property owners within the fire taxing district. This money is collected for the sole purpose of providing fire and rescue services. Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez has repeatedly pointed out that funds cannot be moved between the fire department and the general fund. This might not be completely accurate.

Recent history has shown that money gets moved from the fire district to the general fund each and every year. In September 2009, $4.5 million of fire-district tax funds were moved to the general fund. This movement of monies happened without any real explanation or legal justification.

This happened again in September 2010, when another $4.6 million was moved. There is currently $9.1 million of fire-district tax money sitting in the general fund. This is money wrongfully taken from fire-district taxpayers who paid that money for fire-rescue services. The firefighters union believes that this action violates Florida’s Constitution.

Most taxpayers are not aware that this movement of money happens every year. Despite the fact that county-owned properties do not pay into the fire district, each year the fire department is forced to pay a roughly $17 million “tax” to the general fund. In a year when the mayor is proposing to shut down three fire trucks, it is shocking that he is increasing the “tax” on the fire department by $2.4 million. This increase is equivalent to the annual operating cost of one fire truck. Taxpayers in the fire-taxing district will lose a fire truck so that more money can be shifted to county administration.

This is not the only disturbing practice: The formula used to calculate this “tax” is not openly shared with the fire department. At one point the formula was calculated based on the number of employees that work for the fire department. Surprisingly, the amount keeps going up even though the department is working with 100 fewer employees.

Firefighters are demanding that taxpayers in the fire district be treated fairly. If the department is being asked to tighten its belt and live within its means, then the county administration should do the same. A recent handout provided to residents at town hall meetings revealed a troubling fact: Since 2011, the funding for the offices of the mayor and county attorney, and all other public-safety departments has increased at the same time the funding for the fire department has been on a steady decline.

Your safety should be one of this government’s top priorities. If the mayor thinks there is no appetite for a tax increase, then he should stop increasing the “taxes” on the fire department. Give the department a reasonable chance to balance its budget without the burden of increasing administrative fees.

Rowan Taylor is president of Firefighters Local Union 1403.

Read more Other Views stories from the Miami Herald

Tony Lesesne


    Tony Lesesne: Overkill, and an apology

    Yes, it happens in South Florida, too — and it shouldn’t. Black men pulled over, needlessly hassled by police officers who give the rest of their colleagues a bad name, who make no distinction when a suspect has no other description than ‘black male,’ who harass residents because they can. A North Miami Beach officer pulls over a black man in a suit and tie — and behind the wheel of an Audi that simply had to be stolen, right? In another Miami-Dade city, an officer demands that an African-American man installing a vegetable garden justify why he has a shovel and seedlings. Detained for possession of cilantro? Here are five South Floridians who tell of their experiences in this community and beyond, years ago, and all too recently.

Delrish Moss


    Delrish Moss: Out after dark

    “I was walking up Seventh Avenue, just shy of 14th street. I was about 17 and going home from my job. I worked at Biscayne Federal Bank after school. The bank had a kitchen, and I washed the dishes. A police officer gets out of his car. He didn’t say anything. He came up and pushed me against a wall, frisked me, then asked what I was doing walking over here after dark. Then he got into his car and left. I never got a chance to respond. I remember standing there feeling like my dignity had been taken with no explanation. I would have felt better about that incident had I gotten some sort of dialogue. I had not had any encounters with police.


    Bill Diggs: Hurt officer’s feelings

    “I’m the first generation in my family to go to college, and if I wanted to do nothing else, I wanted to make my mom happy. I was living for my parents, I wanted to be that guy, I wanted to go to work and not have to put on steel-toe boots. And here I am in Atlanta, I have finally grown to a particular level of affluence. I wasn’t making a lot of money, but I was a college kid, wearing a suit, driving a nice BMW going to work everyday. Can’t beat that. I would leave my house, drive up Highway 78, the Stone Mountain area, grab some coffee, go to work. So on this particular morning, there’s a cop who’s rustling up this homeless guy outside the gas station where I was filling up. I’m shaking my head, the cop looks at me. This homeless guy is there every morning. I get in my car and on to the expressway. The police officer comes shooting up behind me. I doing 65, 70. He gets up behind me, I notice he’s following me. I get in one lane, he gets in the lane, I get in another lane, he gets in that lane. He finally flips his lights on, he comes up to the car. I’ve been pulled over for speeding before, I know the drill. Got my hands up here, don’t want to get shot, and I think he’s going to say what I’ve heard before: ‘License and registration, please.’ He says ‘Get out of the car!’ and he reaches in and grabs me by my shirt. He says, ‘So you’re a smart ass, huh?’ Finally he says, ‘License and registration.’ I tell him it’s in the car. He says, ‘Get it for me!’ He goes back to his car, comes back and asks, ‘So where did you get the car from?’ I say ‘It’s a friend of mine’s.” He says, ‘Is it stolen? What are you doing driving your friend’s car?’ I finally asked, ‘Is there a reason you stopped me? You followed me, what’s up, man?’ He says, ‘I’m going to let you go with a warning, but if you see me doing what I’ve got to do for my job, don’t you ever f---ing worry about it.”

Miami Herald

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