Homestead City Council considered issues of the Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) prior to its Committee of the Whole on Tuesday July 9.
Council granted a consulting contract for Kyle Walton of California operating as Classic Lake to assist with private funding for redevelopment projects.
Walton is currently a consultant on the city’s Cybrary project. His expertise is federal financial services such as Opportunity Zones and the New Market Tax Credit program where businesses provide funding for community projects in exchange for significant tax benefits.
Homestead has a large designated Opportunity Zone under the federal program as many communities do. To help the city with competition for private funding, Classic Lake was given a $25,000 retainer.
In addition the company would earn two percent of the funding for success with city-selected projects where Classic Lake is not already engaged by the builder.
Councilmember Jon Burgess thought the two percent fee was unfair for projects the consultant didn’t recruit. Staff emphasized the benefit of application assistance on these federal programs with someone protecting the city’s interests during negotiation.
Council also renewed a two year contract for former CRA Director Gemma Torcivia doing business as the Civic Consulting Group. The $50,000 per year fee is earned at $75 per hour
or expert advice on New Market Tax Credits, local economic development and related community redevelopment.
“Every document has to be examined thoroughly to meet project metrics,” said Torcivia. "It’s generally a 12 to 24 month process.”
Councilmember Patricia Fairclough said she attended meetings with consultants on some projects. “The amount of work involved was incredible,” she said. “It takes a specific skill set and knowledge base.”
The COW meeting began with a presentation by Anthony Perez of United Way. The organization founded in 1924 assists with funding for over sixty non-profits with one hundred programs in Miami-Dade County.
Council approved a $15,000 retainer for Classic Lake to help with New Market Tax Credits for Cybrary financing. The contract also includes a $15,000 fee for at least one community development entity application plus fees of 1.85% on any allocation authority received from a community development financial institution under the program.
Council’s agenda proposed re-adoption of last year’s millage rate ($5.9215 per $1000) on assessed value for ad valorem taxation for fiscal 2020 beginning October 1st.
City staff said the proposal used July 1 data that are the final figures for the new budget. Tax notices are mailed in late August with public budget hearings in September. Staff said once Council accepts the millage rate it can be lowered but cannot be raised.
“How are we going to enhance our city if we never raise taxes?” said Councilmember Burgess. “Last year we gave direction to staff on services but now we’re locking ourselves in.”
“People made it clear that the same level of services was not acceptable,” he continued. They’re asking for more police, more parks, higher and better levels of service and this (millage) won’t deliver them.”
Mayor Shelley was told the actual monetary increase was about $1.4 million in additional tax revenue this year.
City Manager Gretsas said, “To be clear, this is funding for the same level of services. If there is an appetite for more services, you must raise the millage rate.”
“This is irresponsible as no due diligence has been done,” said Councilmember Fairclough. “There’s been no discussion of this, no workshops have been held; we need community input. There’s a process and you don’t just do it tonight.”
Mayor Shelley agreed with the need to “communicate with the community”.
Councilmember Burgess added, “We can’t fund any new projects or take ideas from budget hearings with this rate. So I’m a NO vote.”
Councilmember Elvis Maldonado spoke about Miami Beach’s obligation bond paying for long term projects as an alternative to raising taxes which he opposed.
Councilmember Julio Guzman asked how long the workshop process takes to consider a new millage rate. Manager Gretsas advised that the process needed to start in January of next year for 2021 budget application.
The conclusion was there was insufficient discussion time to revise the millage this tax cycle. Manager Gretsas said any desire for a bond issue also must be incorporated in that discussion.
Council’s final approval for continuing the millage rate was a 5 to 1 vote with Burgess voting No.
Council approved two proposals to prepare for the Campbell Drive truck bypass construction. The city accepted $595,368 in reimbursement from FDOT to relocate electric lines along the bypass. Staff said Homestead was lucky to have some easements in place but the city utility still must bear some project cost.
“It wasn’t an easy process to get this much reimbursement,” said Manager Gretsas.
A second proposal approved by Council bought 25,000 feet of wire for $189,612 in anticipation of use for the bypass and in the city’s capital improvement program.
Council accepted three grants to enhance police services and Homestead PAL. A small FDLE supplement paid investigators’ overtime in domestic violence cases, the Children’s Trust granted $195,811 to PAL for its college readiness program, and the Children’s Trust gave $608,089 to the Families Exposed to Violence program requiring a $152,022 city match.
“Thanks to Sandy Nonni for bringing this money to our community year after year, over $800,000 here,” said Councilmember Roth. “We truly appreciate your efforts.”