City Manager Pat Salerno wants to add seven officers to the Coral Gables Police Department under a budget proposal received by the City Commission on Wednesday.
The budget also includes a slightly lower tax rate, but longtime homeowners would end up paying a little more because of increased home values.
Salerno proposed a tax rate of $5.629 per $1,000 of taxable property value, down from the current rate of 5.669. The commission voted unanimously to advertise Salerno’s proposed rate, meaning it could hold, or be lowered but not raised, after two public hearings in September. As such, the reduction in its property tax rate continues a trend, Salerno said.
The owner of a home assessed at $375,000 would pay about $1,865 in property tax, assuming the owner qualifies for the standard $50,000 homestead exemption, and that the home’s taxable value increased by 1.7 percent, the maximum allowed this year for an owner-occupied home. That’s an increase of about $23. If the city were not cutting the tax rate, the increase would have been $36.
The city also proposes a budget of $153.4 million for its 2013-14 fiscal year, up from this year’s $145 million. Part of the reason for the increase is that the city plans to spend money already set aside for big-ticket projects — including about $400,000 for structural repairs to the aged City Hall on Biltmore Way, $450,000 to shore up the historic Merrick House and $300,000 for streetscape improvements to the Kings Bay community.
The city also budgeted $390,000 for a re-sodding of the War Memorial Youth Center’s fields and irrigation improvement.
“Soccer moms should be appreciative of the commission because they can be heard,” Salerno said.
The additional police personnel would add about $850,000 to the budget and Salerno hopes to hire a financial and policy analyst at an undetermined pay scale, likely in the $60,000 to $90,000 range. This person’s job would include developing a five-year economic plan and would be the key person in setting forth performance standards for the various city departments.
“I would look at this position as a revenue generator,” Salerno said. “As the county moves toward a policy of eliminating unincorporated areas and have donut holes annexed by the cities, this individual would work on our case as to why certain unincorporated areas would be advisable to join us.”
The fire department would hold steady at 139 positions, a figure maintained since the 2005 budget cycle.
The proposed increase of eight employees would bring the city total to 800, its highest figure since 2010.
Coral Gables will hold two public hearings on the budget, at 5:01 p.m. on Sept. 12 and Sept. 24 at City Hall. State law requires that the hearings be after 5 p.m. so that residents can share their views after work.
“I’m pleased that the commission has before it a budget that will lower the tax rate for the third consecutive year while meeting our needs and enhancing the services that are being provided,” Salerno said Wednesday afternoon.
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