Miami-Dade Municipalities tough out economy
”It’s going to be a time that we all have to buckle down and get through this,” Mayor Julio Robaina of Hialeah said at a recent budget hearing. “Our residents are not in a position to pay more. Assessments are going to go down next year and economic times are going to get worse.”
Hialeah is not alone municipalities all over Miami Dade county and the country are buckling down. Very few municipalities like Cutler Bay actually gave healthy raises to Manager and staff and increased the number of people on the payroll. All local governments will lose millions in revenue because of statewide property tax reforms that allow homeowners to claim higher homestead exemptions.
Municipalities with healthy surpluses like Aventura and Pinecrest have proposed a lower tax rate and Bal Harbour has sidestepped the financial woes that have forced other Miami-Dade municipalities to raise property taxes or decrease services. Under the budget for the 2008-09 fiscal year, Bal Harbour would have the third-lowest tax rate in the county.
A development agreement added to the village’s bottom line. Bal Harbour receives almost $2 million in revenue from the St. Regis hotel and condo project, which is under construction.
Cutler Bay added 5 extra officers to its payroll bring the Cutler Bay’s police unit’s full-time staff to 56. Thanks to added income from St. Regis hotel, Bal Harbour will also increase its police budget. The increase will pay for new police radios and a portable roadside sign that will monitor speed and flash messages.
village Manager Alfred Treppeda told the Miami Herald that the village won’t be adding any positions. ”It’s not a smart time to expand,” he said.
North Bay Village saved money by negotiating lower insurance premiums and by giving smaller raises for employees. Here the police department’s budget makes up about 70 percent of the city’s operating budget. The village added one more patrol officer to help reduce the amount that the department is spending in overtime.
Mayor Joe Geller wants to drastically reduce the amount of overtime that the village pays so that they could be paying officers straight time instead of time and a half.
The village of Biscayne Park which has one of the highest tax rate in the county, $8.8903 for every $1,000 of a property’s assessed value is having problems making ends meet. the village wants to eliminate one public works employee in area of landscaping and two vacant positions in the department. Eliminate the finance clerk’s position and eliminate the legislative representative, who has been responsible for acquiring grants the village has used for capital projects in the past.
Paying less for property taxes may bode well for the wallets of Hialeah homeowners, but it has also left city officials grappling with the difficult choice of cutting certain city positions and reducing the hours of certain programs.
On Sept. 22 the Hialeah City Council voted to keep the same tax rate as last year — $6.54 per every $1,000 of assessed taxable value on a home. While the rate hasn’t changed, residents can expect to see a $124 savings in their tax bill.
The savings are namely the result of sinking property values coupled with voter-approved property tax reform that doubled the homestead exemption from $25,000 to $50,000.
Back in Hialeah Miami-Dade county’s second-largest city 200 vacant city positions were slashed. ”We’re looking for better efficiencies in all of our departments,” Mayor Robaina said. “In some cases we combined positions, so a job being done by three people will now have to be completed by two.”
Other changes include slashing $10.2 million in capital improvement projects like road repairs, and reducing the hours of operation at certain city parks and libraries.
There are also reductions to travel allowances for high-ranking city officials or reducing the amount budgeted for office supplies for each department.
The economic downturn has affected the town of Surfside Beach’s finances. The town officials are not worried because they have about $7 million in reserves. Surfside Councilman Doug Samples acknowledged that there was a lot of uncertainty with the economic outlook and he wanted “to make sure that they remained vigilant with taxpayer money.”