Miami Beach

Miami Beach agrees to increase storm-drainage fees

The Miami Beach City Commission gave final approval to an 84 percent increase in storm-water fees meant to pay for infrastructure improvements to combat the effects of sea-level rise.

Commissioners also agreed to explore a more equitable way to calculate the fee after residents raised concerns about being charged unfairly.

When the increase was first proposed in July, Commissioner Michael Grieco was the lone opposing vote on the grounds that the city should look into alternatives, like imposing a progressive fee based on property values.

The city charges each residential dwelling space a storm-water fee. A modest condo would pay the same as a mansion. With Wednesday’s approval, the fee will jump from $9.06 to $16.67 per month starting Oct 1.

Locals who spoke Wednesday said they supported the fee but wanted to see the city implement it more fairly.

Resident Adam Shedroff said he has working-class tenants who struggle to support themselves and provide for family members abroad. The increase, he said, will hurt them more than wealthier homeowners.

“It affects a lot of working-class people,” he said.

Commissioners reiterated their support for the increase, calling the plan to deal with flooding streets an issue that benefits all city residents.

Commissioner Weithorn said nobody likes to raise rates, but Miami Beach has to make the tough decision to ensure the future of the city’s infrastructure. She noted that the Beach has to figure out the best process to fund such a project because it is at the forefront of cities taking action to deal with sea-level rise.

“Quite frankly, Miami Beach is leading,” she said. “And when you lead, there is not a lot of precedent to work with.”

Mayor Philip Levine said he’s exploring state and federal funding that could help defray the cost to residents.

“If there’s money out there, we’re going to find it,” he said.

Over the next three to five years, Miami Beach will need $300 million to install pumps that will take water off the streets. The city will issue three bonds of $100 million each to pay for the work, which leads to the higher user fees. The city estimates the fee could reach $27.38 a month.

The commission agreed to look into redoing the calculation for the fee during the next year to make it more equitable across the spectrum of city residents.

“I’m just glad we’re talking about it,” Grieco said.