Four commissioners, and Gimenez and his chief opponent, Commission Chairman Joe Martinez, will be on the Aug. 14 election ballot. Runoffs, if needed, would be held in November. Five other candidates are also running for mayor.
Gimenez said he proposed the lower property-tax rate in light of an uptick in property values and new construction. Miami-Dade’s property-tax base increased for the first time in four years by nearly 2 percent, according to the property appraiser.
In a memo he sent the mayor in May, Martinez requested that any new money from a more robust tax roll go toward reducing the property-tax rate, restoring services or lowering the employee healthcare contribution. Martinez’s office said he wanted to review the budget Thursday evening before commenting.
John Rivera, president of the Police Benevolent Association, said the fact that Gimenez set aside money in case commissioners shoot down the 4-percent giveback may be an election-year strategy to appease employees.
“He knows that the entire workforce is against him,” said Rivera, whose union has endorsed Martinez. “This might be a way of trying to get them hopefully to soften up and not vote against him.”
The administration, in preliminary talks with employee unions, has laid out an unpopular plan to lower or eliminate the 4-percent giveback in exchange for higher co-pays and more expensive coverage for dependents. The plan is not expected to garner union approval.
Gimenez’s budget does not propose pay raises for administrators or employees. The mayor said the county cannot afford raises until Miami-Dade’s economy has stabilized and his administration has finished shrinking the County Hall bureaucracy. This year’s budget is a continuation of the mayor’s two-year plan, started last year, which pared services and slashed the number of departments from 42 to 26 (now 25).
In the new budget, “We’re not asking for anybody to make any more sacrifices than we’re already making,” he said.
The budget sets aside more than $20 million — the same as the current year —for community-based organizations that provide services to children, seniors and the needy. There are no plans to close libraries or parks, or to reduce their hours of operation, an idea that drew much criticism when Gimenez’s administration suggested it last year.
Nor are there fee or rate hikes. Disposal charges paid by commercial properties and entities that collect garbage — such as private garbage-pickup companies — will go up based on the consumer-price index, as they do every year. A slightly higher landing fee that airlines pay the airport is also tentatively budgeted, though the fee is expected to hold steady once the final budget is adopted in September.
The mayor’s proposal eliminates 612 positions — the net total of doing away with vacant jobs and creating 106 new ones. Most of the vacancies resulted from the consolidation of county departments.
The plan reduces Gimenez’s office budget by 7 percent, following a 20 percent reduction last year, and maintains the same level of funding for commissioners’ district offices, which last year took a 10 percent cut.
The overall county budget would total $5.9 billion, down from nearly $6.2 billion last year. That includes $1.6 billion for construction spending, down from $1.7 billion last year following the completion or near completion of big-ticket projects, including the North Terminal at Miami International Airport and the Metrorail airport link.