The Miami Springs council met on Monday night, Aug. 12 in the first regular session since the July recess ended. However, they had done much due diligence on the impending 2013-14 budget during that time and it was obvious throughout this three-hour meeting that saving dollars now or pushing some into next year was the plan of attack.
Issues of importance that came up during the meeting that had budget ramifications included a money request from Curtiss Mansion Inc. (CMI), an offer to move the Miami Springs Historical Museum to a new location, an increase in all business taxes, and a short-term solution to the city clerk position.
Like so many times before, CMI had money problems and was asking for immediate and longer-term support. CMI president and former mayor Richard Wheeler was there to plead their case, asking for $10,000 this fiscal year and $25,000 next year.
“We are not asking for a loan; the $4 million historical mansion is an asset of the city, so CMI cannot use it as collateral for a loan,” said Wheeler. “Our goal remains to be a self-sustaining entity and we are asking for city participation for the operation of the Curtiss Mansion.”
As Mayor Zavier Garcia pointed out, CMI had made progress during the last fiscal year, which ended June 30, bringing in over $78,000 in revenue, mostly from event rentals of the property. However, expenses were still higher than revenues, which also included $108,500 in initial working capital from historic tax credits.
With very little flexibility in this year’s budget, Wheeler and the council agreed to build the $10,000 into next year and put the CMI request for funds at $35,000 for fiscal 2013-14 that begins Oct. 1.
From one historical entity to the next, the Miami Springs Historical Society/Museum was offering to move from its current location at 26 Westward Drive to an unoccupied building at Stafford Park. And in doing so, their budget of $11,000 would be cut in half.
Jim Watson, the vice-president of the Historical Society, gave a presentation about how the new location at 501 East Drive would not only save the city dollars but would offer better educational and marketing opportunities.
The council took no action and City Manager Ron Gorland cautioned that there were many details that needed to be worked out for this to happen. But finding a savings of $5,500 to cut into next year’s deficit was a step in the right direction.
Additional revenue for next year has the same effect as cutting expenses and Building Director Tex Zaidie supported an ordinance that would increase business taxes across the board by 5 percent. He assured the council that Miami Springs’ business taxes were still far below the norm and he estimated an additional $3,500 to the city coffers next year.
The council seemed to be unanimous in favor of such an increase in its discussion before the vote was taken; it was somewhat of a surprise when Billy Bain and Garcia dissented. The 3-2 vote was just the first reading of the ordinance to increase business taxes and will make the vote on second reading at the next council meeting on Monday, Aug. 26 very interesting.
There were no dissenters in the action taken with the city clerk position and the savings for at least the next few months will be significant. Magali Valls, who retired in early July, was making close to $100,000 and the city already had begun the search for her replacement.
In the interim, Assistant City Clerk Suzanne Hitaffer was being proposed as “acting” city clerk at a salary of $71,850. According to city code, Hitaffer could hold this position for a maximum of six months while the council decides to hire a new city clerk or take the “acting’ out of Hitaffer’s title.
The vote was unanimous to name Hitaffer “acting” city clerk. Valls was present only to receive a plaque from the Florida Association of City Clerks for her many years of service; however, Garcia promised that Valls would be honored at a future Miami Springs council meeting.
In other news, the council:
• Approved two resolutions unanimously authorizing the designations of two streets in Miami Springs: Father Carney Way and Reverend Dr. Albert Schmidt Way.
The street honoring the longtime Blessed Trinity pastor, Father Carney, will be a portion of Northwest 59th Avenue where it enters Miami Springs to Hunting Lodge Drive. Longtime Grace Lutheran minister Rev. Schmidt gets his name on Curtiss Parkway in front of his church.
• Approved unanimously a PG-rated performance by Ralph Wakefield and the Pelican Players called “Greater Tuna” that will take place in the Rebeca Sosa Theatre Sept. 6-15.