Taxes may be going up in Cutler Bay, but not as much as initially proposed.
The Cutler Bay Town Council on Monday tentatively approved a tax rate of $2.80 for every $1,000 of assessed property value. That’s down from the $2.93 recommended by interim town manager Rafael Casals, but still an increase of about 9 percent from this year’s rate of $2.57.
With this increase, the owner of a typical home with an assessed value of $115,000, taking the standard $50,000 homestead exemption, would pay $192, an increase of $25. Under Casal’s original plan, the increase would have been $34. That assumes a home whose assessed value increased by 3 percent.
The new tentative tax rate would bring in an additional $372,000 in revenue for the town, Casals said.
The tax increase required four of the five council members to approve. Casals’ original proposal was defeated when council member Peggy Bell and Vice Mayor Ernie Sochin voted no.
“I feel that an increase in taxes will hurt our seniors, will hurt our working families, and will hurt those living on the edge,” said council member Peggy Bell.
But Mayor Ed MacDougall said town residents are willing to pay more because the budget includes money for a new high school — something the community has long sought.
“The biggest line item is the education of our kids, and there’s a price to pay for that,” he said.
The budget includes about $2.7 million to help the county school board add high school grades at Centennial Middle School starting this year. The town had previously been zoned for Southridge High School.
Eventually, the council agreed to the smaller tax hike, with only Sochin dissenting.
The council also approved the proposed budget for the 2012-2013 fiscal year, which accounts for $53.3 million in expenses.
One significant change from last year is a decrease in the police budget. This year the town allocated $170,000 for the one-time purchase of police cars, but the town is not planning to purchase new cars next year.
“There are no reductions in police staff,” Casals said.
Council members also decided to delay the start of principal payments on Town Hall and the building next door for another two years. According to Casals, this will save the town $882,000 for the 2012-13 fiscal year.
With this new savings, the town has planned a $1.7 million dip into its reserves, instead of the previously budgeted $2.3 million. This money will be used to cover the payment made for the town’s new high school.
This dip estimates that $13.5 million will remain in the bank, but Casals said the actual number could be higher.
“If staff continues to tighten the belt as it’s done before, we may not even reach that number,” he said.