Souto pushes to repeal parking fees at several County park locations

MIAMI, Fl – Commissioner Javier D. Souto’s ordinance is aimed at repealing legislation that passed in last year’s budget which added parking fees at some of Miami-Dade’s most popular public parks. Starting October 1, residents will have to pay $5 per car to park at the following locations on holidays and weekends: A.D. Barnes Park, Tropical Park, Kendall Hammocks Indian Park, Kendall Soccer Park, Larry and Penny Thompson Park, and part of Amelia Earhart Park. The legislation was introduced as a way of generating revenue at the park locations that are most popular and more expensive to maintain. Discussion on the ordinance will be heard on Monday, September 13, at 2:00 p.m. during the Recreation, Culture, and Tourism Committee meeting.

“This is a regressive tax that will hit middle- and lower-income families hard, and was passed without any input from voters,” said Commissioner Souto. “I didn’t support the item last year, and I certainly don’t support it now that it is soon to create problems for families who frequent our parks because they are currently affordable. The last thing we need is for taxpayers to be burdened with an additional tax, and for these parks to later become empty and subject to illegal activity.”

Commissioner Souto opposes the $5 tax increase. “County Administration is proposing a 12 to 15 percent increase in property taxes for the average homeowner in order to fund County services, which include parks and park programs. On top of that they are now proposing this new parking fee,” stated Commissioner Souto. “Furthermore, they charge user taxes at the parks in the form of league fees and rental fees for the baseball fields, soccer fields, football fields, picnic shelters, equestrian arenas, and more. In many of these facilities, it is the leagues themselves that are maintaining the fields and the restroom facilities. How much more can we really ask residents to pay when they are already paying for these services to begin with?”

“The revenues needed by the County can be garnered by charging user fees to non-County residents for our parks and County facilities like the Tamiami Gun Range, our Golf Courses, our Marinas, our Beaches, the Crandon Tennis Center, Vizcaya, the Metro Zoo, etc,” added Commissioner Souto.

Broward and Monroe Counties charge higher fees for non-resident users of their park facilities. A Dade County resident pays a higher non-resident fee to use a Broward or Monroe County Park facility.

“We could also raise funds through tolls on bridges to tourism facilities like a toll on the bridge to the Port of Miami, which would exclude employees who work at the port and truckers carrying freight to and from the port, but would charge visitors and tourist $5 per person to enter the Port of Miami to take a cruise or to ship merchandise abroad,” suggested Commissioner Souto. “In terms of a $1,000 or $2,000 cruise charge or a $2,000 freight charge to ship a container of goods abroad, a $5 per visitor fee to enter the port would be minimal and could be used to support General Revenue related budget shortfalls like park facilities, police services, fire rescue services, etc.”

This type of non-resident toll has been used by other counties or cities in Florida. Commissioner Souto suggest we could do the same by establishing local toll roads in and around Miami International Airport which could also be SunPass friendly and generate revenue to the County by collecting reasonable toll charges (i.e. 25 cents or 50 cents) for persons accessing Miami International Airport passenger terminals and freight terminals using local County operated roads.

In addition, Commissioner Souto points to taxpayers’ history of supporting local parks through annual property taxes and two voter-approved referendums. In 1996, voters approved the Safe Neighborhoods Park Program, which funded over $200 million worth of park projects. Later in 2004, voters approved a $2.9 billion bond program to fund capital projects which included $591 million for parks.

Commissioner Souto successfully halted the Park Department’s initial attempt to impose the new parking tax on this year’s Fourth of July weekend. He put the issue in front of the June meeting of the Recreation and Cultural Affairs Committee for public debate by policy makers and the Commission expressed its strong opposition, forcing the Administration to reconsider imposing the tax on a federal holiday popular among residents to hold picnics and other activities at local parks.

For the most updated information on this ordinance, please contact Commissioner Souto’s office at 305-222-2116.

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