Plan to end property taxes in Miami Lakes put on hold

05/16/2013 4:59 PM

05/16/2013 5:07 PM

The Miami Lakes Town Council put off an agenda item that asked staff members to explore the gradual elimination of property taxes.

Councilman Nelson Hernandez, who proposed the item, would like the city’s staff to look into ways to reduce the town’s tax rate, currently at about $2.35, by charging for some services.

In a presentation made at the meeting, he said that since nonresidents use town services such as parks and classes, charging a fee and marketing those assets may be a way for the town to turn a profit.

“My motion was for staff to determine, with a study, which assets Miami Lakes can leverage to turn over a profit,” Hernandez said. “What the town council is supposed to do is come up with a broad idea and have staff come back with something solid.”

Charging for services, as Hernandez would like the town to look into doing, may not be feasible.

Miami Lakes’ revenue this year is about $15 million. Property taxes account for about $5.6 million of that amount, according to town manager Alex Rey, via email.

“Most of our free community classes to residents do not cost the town anything. They are offered by outside agencies such as the School Board through grants,” Rey said in an email. “We cannot charge any fees or generate revenues from those classes because the programs are provided through grants and are free to the town.”

The town offers a “small number” of free classes, the total cost of which is $60,000, according to Rey.

“This is for payment of the teachers, and is the only cost,” Rey said. “The most we could ever charge in fees would be $60,000. Thus, if the town were to charge for all free community classes, we would generate no more than $60,000 in revenue. We have no other revenue source to replace the remaining $5.5 million in property taxes.”

But Hernandez doesn’t have his sights solely on classes — he would like for staff members to look into charging for field rentals at parks and other services.

He said that government, like the private sector, should look into generating a profit and pass those savings to residents. One of his ideas is for city staff members to create new programs that could yield a profit. These programs would be available at a competitive cost. Also, the city would work on marketing itself through branding.

All of the profits would be used to gradually lower the property-tax rate.

Hernandez plans to bring his ideas — with a more focused presentation — before the council again at an upcoming meeting.

In the meantime, Mayor Michael Pizzi has expressed his disapproval of this item, calling it a distraction and a sideshow.

“He has not even shown us how we can generate $5 in revenue, no less $5 million,” Pizzi said. “We have real problems our staff needs to focus on.”

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