Earlier this week, a longtime South Beach resident eloquently wrote the Miami Herald regarding taxes and service levels in Miami Beach. I am writing partly to respond and partly to elaborate regarding city services, how they are funded, and what levels the city commission and mayor are striving for.
Initially, I wish to applaud our resident for speaking her mind. I encourage her and all Miami Beach residents to constantly question those tasked with balancing the needs and wants of the collective while remaining fiscally responsible. She made some valid points, but I now wish to uncover a few layers beyond the numbers given and comparisons made.
Comparing property taxes in Florida to those in other states is misleading and somewhat unfair. Specifically citing her comparison of property taxes in Miami Beach to those in South Carolina, the latter has something that we do not: State Income Tax. South Carolina has the 12th highest personal income tax rate among those states that impose them. Obviously Florida does not maintain such a tax, and in turn most government revenues are generated from property, sales and in the case of Miami Beach, resort taxes. As to her $4,300 tax bill, Miami Beach's cut is only $1,290.
It should be noted that approximately 23 of the 36 municipalities in Miami-Dade County have higher millage rates than in Miami Beach. That being stated, as recently as yesterday, I, along with three of my colleagues, directed city staff to sharpen its pencils in an effort to lower our millage rate further and provide slight tax relief.
As to the recent increase in Stormwater Utility Fees our resident mentioned, it is not a simple issue. Although I was the sole “no” vote during the first reading of this measure, I simply wanted to start the conversation regarding how the fee is inequitable, as it is calculated based upon a 20-year-old, antiquated policy that will hopefully be revisited.
We as a commission are far from perfect.
Candidly, most good ideas come from the residents, then the staff, then maybe the elected officials come up with a crumb here or there. Services can always be better and faster, streets can always be safer and cleaner, and people clearly can always be happier. We can always do more, and I can assure you that the mayor and my colleagues on the commission are dedicated to making Miami Beach the best it can be.
Michael Grieco, Miami Beach commissioner