The Miami Springs special meeting on Thursday, July 25 was scheduled to set the ceiling for the tax rate for the new fiscal year that begins Oct. 1 and it was expected to be over in just a few minutes. Instead, there was an hour-long discussion by the council not only on the proposed budget but also on the problems at the golf course.
Unlike regular council meetings, there was virtually no one in attendance, except the council, city employees and couple of media representatives. The job at hand, to set the millage rate, was not enough for this council and their candid conversation served as a prelude to the very difficult budget decisions they have to make over the next two months.
The sobering fact that taxes are probably going to go up was accentuated when City Manager Ron Gorland spoke of a possible $1 million expense that could be required at the golf course by the Miami-Dade County Department of Resources Management (DERM).
The “that’s one mil alone” cry by Councilman Michael Windrem was deafened when Finance Director William Alonso assured the council that this expense was only “possible” and could be spread out over a number of years or the city could “borrow” to cover it during the year. But it did put an exclamation point on the budget problems that face this council.
The council did get some good news, as the $587,484 budget deficit they would have to overcome at the current tax rate of 6.9950 had been reduced. The Aetna Health Insurance increase was “only” 9 percent instead of the 15 percent anticipated and the assessed valuation of property had gone up $11 million in the last month. Those factors made the deficit $468,472 at the current rate and it would take an increase to over 7.5 mils to balance the proposed budget.
“We have to work together and in the end we all have to be proud of the final millage rate that we agree to in the budget,” said Councilman Jaime Petralanda.
Miami Springs taxpayers already were facing a 1.7 percent increase due to the increased valuation; that and two-thirds of the entire tax bill were out of the control of this city and the council made that very clear at this meeting. County and school taxes make up a large majority of the homeowners’ tax bills that will come due late this year.
The job at hand was to set a ceiling for the tax rate that could only be reduced by actions at the two budget workshops on Aug. 5 and Aug. 19 and at the public hearing/regular council meetings on Sept. 9 and Sept. 23. The administration was recommending a 7.8950 rate that would represent a 12 percent increase over the current fiscal year.
The golf course talk was sparked by the tax rate (7.8597) that would be necessary to do all the things new golf director Paul O’Dell was requesting in the new budget. The losses next year already were approximated at over $450,000 and that would increase to over $725,000 by fulfilling O’Dell’s wishes.
“We need to be responsible to the residents with regard to the golf course and there has to be an end game,” said Councilman George Lob. “The golf course is eating us alive and eventually we have to go to the people and ask them what they want us to do. The new people there are our last prayer.”