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Miami Beach’s OKs tax break for seniors, new rules for filmmakers

Miami Beach’s elderly, low-income residents may get a break on their taxes this year.

After Florida voters approved a constitutional amendment in November to expand homestead tax exemptions for seniors, the Miami Beach City Commission had to vote to implement the program in the city. They did so on Wednesday, voting to allow additional exemptions to elderly residents who make $27,000 or less, and who have had a permanent residence in the city for at least 25 years.

It will cost the city about $17,000 to extend the benefits to about 90 qualifying residents, according to an analysis by city staff.

Corporate sponsorships

The commission on Wednesday referred its contract with The Superlative Group, which has been researching the possibility of corporate sponsorships in the very marketable city of Miami Beach, to the Finance and Citywide Projects Committee.

The idea has been floated as a way to boost city coffers without any cost to residents. At one point, Carnival Corp. floated the possibility of buying naming rights for Miami Beach’s South Pointe Park, but abruptly walked away from the idea. The city is currently mulling the idea of lending its name to an official sunblock.

Residents haven’t been keen on selling off their city’s naming rights. Instead, they want to look into creating a park conservancy to care for Miami Beach’s award-winning public parks.

Film permits

Commissioners on Wednesday also tweaked rules regarding the film-production industry in the city.

The new rules require neighbor consent for film or print productions that go on for more than 10 days. Residents had asked for neighbor consent to be triggered at five days. An exception will apply to filming near hospitals.

The commission also gave preliminary approval of a fee schedule for people who break the city’s rules regulating productions in the city, and for an appeal process for those who receive citations.

Lastly, the amendments also provide a clearer definition of "city-wide" and "driving shot" permits, and expand vehicle access to the beach, park and pedestrian use areas, according to a city report.

In 2012, the city issued more than 1,000 film and print permits, according to a city report.

Debarment of contractors

The City Attorney’s Office and the Public Works Department will begin an investigation on whether to ban Harbour Construction from doing any more work for the city.

Commissioners on Wednesday approved the start of the investigation.

The company was implicated in a corruption probe that landed the Beach’s former procurement director, Gus Lopez, in jail for rigging bids, according to prosecutors. Lopez has plead not guilty.

The company was not charged in the case, but police say company employees admitted to falsifying a letter of credit and receiving leaked information about other companies’ bids. Harbour Construction received the $1.4 million in work on Miami Beach’s botanical garden and has been paid more than $3.6 million for an ongoing Dade Boulevard seawall and bike path project.

After the arrest of Lopez, Miami Beach tightened its rules regarding who can do business with the city. They included new rules that allow the city to ban companies that admit to breaking the law in exchange for immunity.

Miami Herald reporter David Smiley contributed to this report.

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