Cut! County Film Office Goes on the Chopping Block

In the face of countywide budget cuts, county commissioners will convene early next month to discuss slashing the county film office’s operating budget by 40 percent, its marketing budget by 60 percent, and its staff by 50 percent, to three employees.

Another idea: implementing fees for entrainment industry types seeking to do business here.

“It’s not a done deal, it’s only a possibility,” says Jeff Peel, director of the county office. To compensate for the impending budget cuts, Peel advocates charging unprecedented fees for permits: “When we talk to our clients and ask them if they would be willing to pay, assuming we can keep the permit fee to an acceptable range of say $100 to $300, they don’t seem to mind if it means we can retain the staff and keep the same level of service.”

While county cutbacks might require Miami Beach’s film office to give up two of its five-person staff, the city’s film and event production manager, Graham Winick, vehemently opposes the new fees. “It’s a great marketing tool to say we don’t charge,” says Winick, explaining states compete fiercely to lure production companies because of the revenue they generate. The film industry injected an estimated $130 million into Miami-Dade County’s economy last year.

According to Peel, charging for permits will not likely affect those figures.

When asked if he would consider, instead, taking a salary cut -- his $133,000 annual salary (not including benefits) would alone swallow almost one third of the proposed decreased budget -- Peel fell silent.

“The county doesn’t do salary cuts,” he said. -- Joanne Green

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