The Miami-Dade 500: Who gets the most money from county government?

04/15/2014 3:44 PM

04/18/2014 10:01 AM

Miami-Dade County’s checkbook could be considered an industry unto itself.

Florida’s largest local government spends more than $6 billion a year, offering a lucrative source of dollars for hundreds of vendors, contractors and grant recipients.

Who are the biggest earners? We present to you The Miami-Dade 500.

This list ranks the 500 highest payouts by Miami-Dade County to private-sector organizations between 2011 and 2013. The data comes from Miami-Dade’s online checkbook, which endeavors to list most non-payroll checks that the county writes on a daily basis. We tallied up the nearly 130,000 recipients, filtered out government agencies and taxing districts, and compiled our list.

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The list captures the end results of the yearly budget decisions that are getting underway this spring as commissioners and Mayor Carlos Gimenez decide how to allocate tax dollars. The dollars go to churches and schools administering county poverty and Head Start programs, contractors building county projects, service providers equipping county workers with phones, fuel, and other goods.

Florida Power & Light has a comfortable hold on the top position. The for-profit utility received nearly $370 million in Miami-Dade checks over 36 months, or an average of more than $300,000 a day. If Miami-Dade has a massive electric bill, it also digs deep to purchase fuel. MacMillan Oil, a Hialeah company, snagged the No. 3 spot with about $240 million worth of payments from Miami-Dade.

The second-place finisher could actually be a contender for first place, depending on how the dollars are calculated. Parsons-Odebrecht is the joint-venture between Parsons, of Pasadena, Calif., and the U.S. subsidiary of Brazilian-based Odebrecht that won a number of massive projects at Miami International Airport, including construction of the North Terminal and the train system connecting MIA with its new transportation hub. The joint venture collected $285 million from Miami-Dade during the last three years.

Odebrecht, which built the county’s Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts and manages projects at PortMiami, appears two other times on the Miami-Dade 500 list: once at No. 4 in a joint venture that built the $360 million Metrorail expansion to MIA’s Intermodal Center, and once at No. 29 as its own corporate entity. Combined, the three Odebrecht entries received about $460 million.

We should note that the Miami Herald Media Co. landed at No. 340 on the list, with a payout of about $3.4 million. Miami-Dade routinely purchases advertising space.

Some caveats to the Miami-Dade 500:

Since most debt-service payments are conducted with wire transfers, county officials say payments to Miami-Dade’s lenders are generally omitted from the check-book data. Our list does not take into account the occasional voided check, which would have reduced FPL’s $368 million by 2 percent, to $359 million, according to county records. Payout figures also don’t capture the narrow margins that often come with selling the county commodities, such as fuel and food. In addition, checkbook entries won’t register any of the revenue coming into the county that may be tied to the payouts or offset costs, such as the utility fees FPL pays Miami-Dade.

Carnival Corp. landed on No. 77 on the list, with Miami-Dade paying the cruise-line company nearly $14.5 million over three years, according to the checkbook entries. That’s thanks to parking-revenue sharing agreements the cruise giant negotiated with Miami-Dade, along with the millions of dollars in rent and docking rebates that PortMiami pays to cruise companies when they meet certain passenger targets. Between 2011 and 2013, Carnival paid to PortMiami about $85 million, so the money it received from the county amounted to a 17 percent rebate.

Many spots on the list capture the huge dollars involved when Miami-Dade outsources services. Guarding Metrorail and courthouses earned 50 State Security Service about $59 million.

Advanced Transportation Solutions is a Miami company that ran the county’s shuttle service for disabled residents and the elderly until another vendor won the contract last year. Advanced Transportation received $94 million from the county in the past three years , according to the Miami-Dade ledger. That would amount to about $86,000 a day.

A number of the top spots this year are bound to drop sharply next year. County construction dollars boosted the art and science museums into the Top 20. Marlins Stadium Developer LLC, an entity formed by the Marlins to serve as developer of the county-owned Marlins Park, had collected 90 percent of its $113 million payout by the end of 2011. Two years later, the dollars were still enough for it to land in the Top 10 of the Miami-Dade 500.

This post is part of Dade Data, a new online series from the Miami Herald’s County Hall team. Dade Data will explore the numbers driving Miami-Dade County’s government and the challenges it faces.

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