Council keeps same millage rate for $16.5 mil budget; some initiatives unfunded

Friday, August 4, 2017 0 Comments

Despite a spike in police service and health care insurance costs, Miami Lakes will not raise the rate for property taxes, but the town may not have enough money for neighborhood and facilities replacement projects.

The town initially proposed to slightly raise taxes to balance the budget but additional revenues allowed Miami Lakes to keep the same rate of 2.335, while crafting out an estimated $16.5 million budget for next year.  

Town Manager Alex Rey said he originally recommended the 2.3518 tax rate, which was needed to generate an additional $47,297 for law enforcement service, estimated at $8.4 million, and meeting the rising costs for health care insurance for town employees at $37,250. 
The police budget constitutes 52 percent of the town’s expenses.

Council members tentatively approved the rate at their July 25 regular meeting and will give their final nod at the budget hearings next month. 

The rate is $2.335 for every $1,000 of taxable value but residents will pay a slight tax increase since property values have increased.  

Rey said piecing together the budget was a challenge with the increases for police services and health care insurance costs, totaling $718,350, plus $60,000 in tree trimming services as part of the of Miami Lakes’ Tree Management Plan.

However, the spending plan doesn’t leave the flexibility that Miami Lakes has enjoyed in previous years, for some of the goals and objects for the 2025 Strategic Plan, that include enhanced mobility, beautification, economic development, sustainability, communication and innovation/technology. 

Rey said while the current and projected development projects bode well for the town’s future economic stability, the expanding service areas and population increase will place greater demand on services, having a significant impact on personnel, contract services, operational and infrastructure costs.
Not to mention former mayor Michael Pizzi’s lawsuit, demanding the town pay his attorneys’ fees from his criminal case, which they estimated at $3.5 million.

The case, and the town’s own lawsuit against its insurance carrier for refusing to cover his legal bill, have been dragging on for three years, absorbing most of the town’s attorney fees and reserves to fight them in court. 

The town budgeted $230,000 for town attorney services, and will carry over $1.40 million for litigation fees and $624,000 in reserves. 

According to Rey, Miami Lakes’ property values increased by 7.4 percent ($207.7 million), which generate an additional estimated $500,000 in property taxes, and the increases to utility services tax ($197,000) and other revenues bring the budget to about $16.5 million. 

Other changes in the budget, reflecting an estimated $630,00 increase, include $362,000 for beautification projects and parks improvements; $158,300 for employee retention and training; $134,000 for miscellaneous projects; and $121,400 in reserves. 

For the town’s committees’ budgets, Miami Lakes is proposing to increase their funding following their requests during a workshop. 

Their total budgets were set for a total of $227,850, an increase of $16,100.
Some services that may go unfunded next year include the West Lakes Neighborhood Reforestation Program ($100,000); Health Miami Lakes Master Plan ($25,000); Smart Cities Strategic Road Map ($25,000); and facilities renewal and replacement plan ($125,000).

Miami Lakes has scheduled two budget hearings for Tuesday, September 5, at 5:01 p.m., and Wednesday, September 20, at 6:00 p.m.  

A budget workshop is scheduled for Thursday, August 24 in Council chambers at Town Hall.

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