Last year, a non-binding straw ballot question was put to Miami-Dade voters that asked whether the county should raise property taxes to help fund enhanced animal services in our community. Voters strongly supported the question posed and the idea of saving pets’ lives. Unfortunately, the voters were given only one choice to make: raise taxes to provide for animal welfare or let the pets die.
However, I firmly believe that the county commission owes it to Miami-Dade taxpayers to explore alternative funding sources before agreeing to a property tax increase. Now that the mayor has asked us to consider a 4-percent millage increase for the upcoming budget year, we must be even more cautious before asking the public to shoulder an additional tax burden. Using a millage increase to fund enhanced animal services sets a very dangerous precedent and invites philanthropic organizations to pursue future non-binding straw polls as a vehicle for funding every benevolent cause under the sun. The proverbial Pandora’s Box would be open.
A few weeks ago a representative from the Little Havana Activities and Nutrition Centers, an organization that delivers meals to some of our community’s most needy seniors, testified before the county commission that it was facing serious financial constraints and would be curtailing services due to a lack of county funding. There are dozens of these worthy funding needs, yet the county turns away many of these deserving organizations citing a lack of public dollars.
We have other, better options to provide the Animal Services Department with a dedicated funding source. The Parks Foundation is an excellent precedent and model for fulfilling intent and spirit of last year’s animal welfare ballot question. The best course of action is a mechanism for private fund raising and voluntary donations that has county oversight and accountability to ensure money is properly spent for animal welfare.
I share the sentiment in this community for enhanced animal services funding. But a property tax increase is not the prudent way to go. Where the law requires an issue to be presented to the voters for their approval, I follow the law and will of the voters. The people of District 13 elected me to make tough decisions and to act as a steward of their hard-earned tax dollars. I owe it to them to ask tough questions and exhaust all other options before I raise their taxes. No straw poll will ever relieve me of that responsibility.
Esteban Bovo Jr., Miami-Dade County Commissioner