Miami Taxpayers Gets Refund for Fire Fee
Written by Administrator   
Thursday, 19 July 2007
Miami leaders have finally reached an agreement in a lawsuit over the city's fire fee. The mIAMI fire fee that has troubled authorities for some time now has come to an end as officials say they have at hand the temporary settlement for the benefit of city taxpayers. $15.55 million deal is set to be approved by mIAMI commissioners at the end of this month.

Within six months or so checks will be mailed to nearly 80,000 qualified taxpayers, although delays are expected as in any judicial proceedings.

mIAMI Mayor Manny Diaz is one of the city leaders who have been affected by the controversy of the fee that began in 1998 as a means to save the city from bankruptcy. The first attempt to settle the issue was in 2004 when city officials approved a deal to pay only seven individuals and their attorneys with $7 million. Court order later overturned the deal to the indignation of other taxpayers who are left with nothing. A testimony under oath by a former assistant city attorney states that the initial deal was a preventive of a massive payout. According to city lawyers mIAMI’s liability is worth as much as $24 million to all those who paid for the fire fee.

Mayor Diaz admits the mistake of the first deal. He has relied on former City Manager Joe Arriola to settle the deal. Arriola discussed with the plaintiffs’ attorney and sealed the deal miscalculating the $7 million as sufficient to cover all fee-payers. In 2004, the Florida Supreme Court considered the mIAMI fire fee as unconstitutional as it paid for emergency medical services, which is failed to unswervingly benefit the property.

Before the public’s outrage has ceased the deal, only half of the $7 million settlement was paid out. The amount of $3.5 million is still being recovered by the city while so far approximately $2 million has been regained. The new settlement of $15.5 million is doubted enough in refunding fully all the fire fees that taxpayers spent since 1998.

In distributing the refunds, the number of properties of a taxpayer is considered, the more the properties the bigger the money to be allotted for repayment. Another is the number of individuals who filed claim for refund. Lastly, taxpayers’ attorneys’ financial gain from the Adorno & Yoss law firm are also considered.

mIAMI City Manager Pete Hernandez says the city has allotted $12 million for the settlement payout to spare distressing mIAMI’s budget. He explains that the entire fee wasn’t illegal but only the share for rescue services. However the public is no longer confident on Hernandez’s argument out of the scandal of the $7 million deal.

Mayor Diaz aims to eliminate the fire fee from future tax bills.

Vanessa Arellano Doctor