Sweetwater’s tax rate will remain unchanged if the City Commission approves the mayor’s proposed 2013-14 proposed budget.
The city is proposing a tax rate of $2.92 for every $1,000 of taxable property value — the same as last year. Longtime homeowners could still see a 1.7 percent increase in their city tax bill because of rising home values.
Financially, the city is doing well, said new Mayor Jose Diaz. He credits being cautious with the way money is spent.
“We have a balance budget,” he said.
Unlike most South Florida cities, Sweetwater has a strong-mayor system, meaning that the mayor is the city’s chief executive.
Diaz took over as mayor earlier this month, after former mayor Manny Maroño was arrested by the FBI on bribery charges.
The projected total spending for this coming budget is $15.3 million compared to the current $14 million budget. The city’s tax base increased by 2.98 percent, according to the Miami-Dade County Property Appraiser office. Nevertheless, state law limits the increase in taxable value of owner-occupied homes to 1.7 percent.
In this year’s proposed budget, the city increased funding for the police department. The reason for the raise is due to union contracts, insurance hikes, pensions and benefits, city officials say.
In recent years, Sweetwater has hired new officers because of the city’s annexation of new areas.
The city gained residents after annexation in 2010. Before annexation, the city had roughly 14,326 residents, but the number jumped close to 20,000. In 2010, the city annexed areas roughly bounded by Northwest Seventh and 25th streets, 107th Avenue and Florida’s Turnpike extension. The area includes the Dolphin Mall.
In the maintenance department, the city will save about $19,000. Credit goes to the addition of new maintenance vehicles, which include a Vactor truck for drain cleaning. Previously, the city would spend more than $30,000 twice a year for an outside contractor to clean the drains.
Diaz said he made some changes when he took over. Certain expenditures were omitted. For example, Maroño had budgeted to negotiate for a $104,000 flatbed truck to deliver equipment across the city.
“I’d rather give to a private company that would save me money and I can use the money to fix potholes and sidewalks,” Diaz said.
Meanwhile, the city has benefited from passport fees, which now bring in about $30,000 a month. According to the proposed budget, passport fees could bring around $540,000.
He said that the future looks bright for the city as he expects more construction to take place.
As far as reserves in case of a natural disaster, Diaz said the city has about $1.8 million.
“We are good financially,” he said.
Sweetwater’s tax rate and budget still need to go before the commission during two budget hearings before taking effect Oct. 1, the start of the 2013-14 fiscal year. The hearings are scheduled for Sept. 9 and 23, both at 8 p.m. at City Hall, 500 SW 109th Ave.