The Miami Springs council met at 6 p.m. Monday (Nov. 26) in a special meeting to address two subjects: the possibility of giving qualified seniors an additional $25,000 homestead exemption and a counterproposal by the Police Benevolent Association (PBA) to solve the Miami Springs police pension contribution problem.
The statewide vote in the recent election (Referendum 11) gave municipalities the opportunity to increase a select group of seniors’ homestead exemptions from $25,000 to $50,000. Miami Springs was among the cities not already offering such a benefit and there was an impending deadline for the exemption to be available for 2013.
The deadline to enact this legislation originally had been set by the state for Dec. 1, but according to Finance Director William Alonso, the Miami-Dade County Property Appraiser had assured him that the deadline would be extended to Jan 1. Regardless, Miami Springs had to act quickly.
The options were: Do nothing, leaving all homestead exemptions at $25,000; allow an additional $25,000 to seniors 65 and older with limited income; or add a $250,000 exemption for seniors living in their homes for more than 25 years.
According to the property appraiser’s office, there were 210 seniors in Miami Springs who could qualify for the additional $25,000 exemption. If all of these residents met the requirements, including an income limitation of $20,000, the cost to the city in next year’s budget would be about $38,000, as estimated by Alonso.
It was clear the council was not going to take the “do nothing” option, nor were they going to go above the $50,000 exemption. The cost for granting residents 65 and older who have legal and equitable title to their permanent homes was not a major obstacle.
Bob Best’s motion to change the city’s ordinance and allow the additional $25,000 exemption to seniors passed unanimously. Passing the revised ordinance on first reading would take place in another special meeting two days later (Wednesday, Nov. 28 at 5:30 p.m.) and the final approval would take place at the next regular council meeting on Monday Dec. 10.
The PBA finally was responding to a pension contribution proposal made by the city just before the new budget took effect on Oct. 1, when Miami Springs police officers would start contributing almost 23 percent of their pay into the pension fund.
The city’s proposal would reduce that contribution amount but it included concessions in years of service and in the DROP program. This, however, was a short-term solution and a long-term contract was still to be negotiated. Miami Springs and the PBA have had no contract in place for more than two years.
The letter, dated Nov. 21, from the PBA offered acceptance of the Sept. 28 Miami Springs proposal with only a minor change, assuring that the city would cover additional expenses as related to changes in the amended pension plan.
As soon as the council heard from city staff that the additional expenses would be minimal, if any, they jumped at the opportunity to get a solution in motion, unanimously agreeing to the PBA counterproposal.
The next step would be ratification of the amended proposal by the PBA, expected to take place this Friday. Then the city would enact legislation for it to take effect, giving the Miami Springs police officers the pension contribution relief they have been seeking.
Just before the meeting adjourned, City Attorney Jan Seiden warned, “While the administration has done a good job of getting immediate relief, this is short-term solution and a long-term contract with the PBA still needs to be negotiated.”