@doug_hanks and @cveiga
Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez on Thursday invited the county's schools chief to launch a joint lobbying effort for changes in state law governing property-tax appeals.
"I invite you to join me on a visit to Tallahassee to meet with our legislators and senior leaders in the Department of Revenue," Gimenez wrote in a two-page letter to Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho. "I believe traveling together to our state capital will be more effective and beneficial to our community."
Carvalho endorsed the plan, and noted he had already suggested it.
"The concept of jointly advocating for solutions to this critical issue in Tallahassee is both welcomed and timely as we recommended it as our last joint meeting," Carvalho said, referring to a sit down with Gimenez and aides. "Our Dade delegation has committed to being helpful. We look forward to equally determined efforts at the local level."
The exchange is the latest installment in an issue brimming with political intrigue. The debate centers around an independent board with authority over the property valuations that are at the heart of funding for both county government and the school board.
A spike in successful appeals blew holes in both budgets in recent years, and Carvalho has been demanding changes. Gimenez insists the matter is out of his hands, since he has no authority over the property-appraiser's office or the appeals panel, which is called the Value Adjustment Board.
Gimenez faces a possible reelection challenge next year by school board member Raquel Regalado, who wanted the school board to join a teacher-union suit against Gimenez over the appeals issue.
That effort stalled. But Carvalho, long considered a formidable mayoral candidate if he should want to run, has made no secret of his annoyance at Miami-Dade for not taking the lead on the issue. Gimenez has dismissed the complaints as misguided politics, and resting on a flawed understanding on how the tax-appeals system works.
The school board recently named Regalado to one of the two seats it controls on the five-member VAB. She said Thursday the solution relies in reforming the VAB system in Miami-Dade, which sees far more successful appeals than do other counties in Florida.
"Going to Tallahassee to lobby isn't going to work. There are 67 counties, and 66 get it right," Regalado said. "To think just because we go with him things are going to change dramatically is naive at best," she said.
The back-and-forth between Miami-Dade's two largest governments has been a mix of public civility and subtle finger pointing. Gimenez dispatched his budget chief and communications director to a school board uninvited, raising eyebrows from the Carvalho crowd. Alluding to a feisty television appearance by Gimenez over the weekend, Carvalho said he was disappointed by what he heard from "the highest levels of government in this community."
"The willingness that is often spoken about -- joining our hands and finding a solution -- is not really the truth," Carvalho said at the school-system's budget committee meeting on Tuesday. "And I am disappointed that I heard that this week."
Read the Gimenez letter by clicking below.
Letter to Superintendent Carvalho