Aventura - Sunny Isles

Northeast Dade MAC approves draft budget for potential city

A committee of northeast Miami-Dade residents has approved a tentative budget for a potential new city, part of a decade-old effort to incorporate.

The area is located east of I-95, west of Biscayne Boulevard, north of North Miami Beach and south of Northeast 215th Street. Referred to as Northeast Dade, the neighborhood is one of five unincorporated areas in Miami-Dade with active efforts to incorporate.

The Municipal Advisory Committee appointed to study the pros and cons on incorporation approved a draft budget of $8,390,000 — one step of many in the process.

Kenneth Friedman is the chair of the committee and has been involved with it since the initiative originally started in 2003 and restarted in 2013. He said incorporating would benefit the area, which needs better services than the county is providing.

“Either you stay in the county where services continue to decline, or you take your taxes and create a city to improve the neighborhood. I support improving the neighborhood,” said Friedman, who publicly supported incorporation in the past. “It’s very obvious that we need more security. We need more code enforcement.”

He said improving traffic safety and flow around Highland Oaks Middle School and more law enforcement in the neighborhood’s park are needs a new city could handle better than the county.

Roslyn Weisblum, who sits on the committee, said that their job is only to determine whether the proposal is feasible or not.

“There’s advantages and disadvantages. It’s gray,” Weisblum said. “People who are against it want to stop the process now. We want people to vote on it.”

Alicia Rook, who has lived in the area for 20 years, is staunchly opposed to incorporation and said the neighborhood is fine as it is.

“Our services are good. We have some of the best police protection,” Rook said. “Do we need another form of government, commissioners and city managers? No, I don’t think so.”

Rook said the residents she has spoken to are content with police presence and response time.

“This is one of the safest neighborhoods in the area,” she said.

The proposed budget is based on property taxes staying at the current county level of $1.93 per $1,000 of taxable home value — the second lowest level in the county — at least for the first year.

According to the proposed budget, nearly $2 million of revenues come from property taxes, and another $6.5 million in other revenue such as sales and utility taxes, permits and city services.

Once cities incorporate, municipalities can raise property taxes based on property values, other revenues and community needs.

Palmetto Bay, which became a village in 2002, has a rate of $2.45. Doral, which incorporated in 2003, charges $1.93. Miami Gardens, which also formed in 2003, charges $6.94.

Cutler Bay, the most recent area to incorporate was established in 2005 and has raised its property tax rate to $2.57.

Rook said she has gone knocking on doors to rally the support of the community and said many people are opposed to incorporation.

“It doesn’t make sense to have another code of government,” Rook said. “We are fine.”

Once the committee approves a conceptual agreement — an outline of the terms of incorporation with the county — it will need to hold two public hearings and then make a recommendation to the county’s advisory planning board.

The committee has until February 2015, the end of a two-year deadline set by the county.

Follow the reporter on Twitter @MelhorL