‘West End’ Kendall city would operate with $40 million

UPDATE: This meeting has been cancelled. We imagine it will be rescheduled for a later time.

West End could be the first new municipality to incorporate in Miami-Dade County since the moratorium was lifted in 2012 and since Cutler Bay was incorporated in 2005.

The West End North Municipal Advisory Committee will convene for the third public meeting tonightWest End MAC to review the pros and cons of becoming a city with its own police force and parks department and government and address public issues or concerns. Last month, the committee received a second proposed budget that — surprise, surprise — showed higher potential revenue than the county’s own report at $42.3 million. This could be the last meeting before the incorporation effort goes, with a recommendation from the committee, to the first of two public hearings at the planning and zoning board and then on to the full county commission.

Read related story: Juan Zapata’s ‘West End’ study could portend a new city

It will still need to be approved by voters living within the boundaries.

A seven member committee has been reviewing the potential benefits of incorporating since 2014. West End MAC mapThe area in question an is bounded by Southwest Eighth Street on the north, Southwest 187th Avenue to the west, Southwest 88th Street to the south and Southwest 147th Avenue to the east, with northern portions extending to Southwest 127th Avenue and Florida’s Turnpike. According to the 2010 Census, just short of 130,000 residents live there.

A second MAC for the West End South goes from SW 88th to 152nd streets and from 137th Avenue to the UDB line just past Krome. But they haven’t met since October and may not be as far along as the North group. (Correction: While the county website is not updated for their meetings, a recent story in the Community Papers, brought to my attention by a loyal reader, says the group also meets monthly and is close to having public hearings as well. We’ll get more on that later).

Last month, the MAC North committee reviewed a proposed budget that ranges from $39.9 to $42.3 million, depending on different revenue streams and whether you trust the county numbers or their outside consultant, who projected higher revenues. Incoming that is certain includes $10.8 million in property taxes, $9.3 million in 1/2 cent sales tax dollars, another $3.2 million in shared state revenue, $13 million in utility fees and $2.7 million in franchise fees.

The hypothetical proposed budget shows the largest chunk of the municipal money going to public safety, with $18 million for police. This has always been a main selling point of incorporation, having a more focused and local police force. About $1.5 million each would go to parks and recreation and code enforcement, two services that are going to be key in that area. Almost $2 million are earmarked for a transportation fund. After a half million for the five-member city council and another half mil for a city manager’s office, there will still be almost $5 million left for a reserve fund, according to this hypothetical, proposed budget.

The bottom line pitch is going to be this: The incorporation will not cost property owners any more in taxes.

“The area loses money by being unincorporated,” said Commissioner Juan Zapata, who zapatacommissioned the committee in 2013 and is an unabashed supporter of cityhood. He says his district is a donor district that does not get what it deserves. “The county is extracting value from this area and shortchanging this area. The numbers speak for themselves.

“If people are fine giving up their taxes to other areas, then don’t change it,” he said. “Other people are making decisions for them with their money.”

Read related story: Juan Zapata draws anti incorporation challenger for 2016

This is likely to become an election issue now that Zapata is challenged by two people who want to slow the incorporation down. Then there are some who might say that Zapata is just trying to create a little kingdom for himself to become mayor of. But if you know Zap, you know small town politics are not his thing. The former state rep says thanks but no thanks.

“I’ve said it publicly and I will say it again, I have no interest in being a local, municipal elected official,” he said, adding that, as of right now, he’s sort of the mayor anyway. There are no municipalities in his district, hence no local electeds to battle with.

“It’s even better than being the mayor,” he said.

“This is about the numbers. Look at the numbers. They are not my numbers.”

The proposed budget and report are available online here. 

The meeting begins at 6 p.m. at the Kendale Lakes Library Branch, 15205 SW 88th St. This could be the last meeting before the plan goes to the planning and zoning board for the two public hearings.