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Miami Shores tax rate to drop slightly

 

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Miami Shores council members tentatively agreed to a slightly lower tax rate for 2014 after the first of two budget hearings Wednesday night.

The rate will be $8.6949 per $1,000 in taxable property value, including a 69.49-cent levy to cover debts for the village’s charter school and aquatics center. This year’s rate was $8.75.

Nevertheless, for the longtime owner of a home assessed at $200,000, the bill would be $1,333, or about $21 more than this year. That assumes the owner is entitled to the standard $50,000 homestead exemption and that the home’s assessed value increases by 1.7 percent, the maximum allowed by law.

These figures don’t include separate property taxes paid to the Miami-Dade School Board, the county and other agencies.

The Shores has one of the highest municipal tax rates in Miami-Dade County. This year, only Opa-locka and Biscayne Park had a higher total property tax rate.

The sanitation rates ($705.52 per year per single family residence) and stormwater rates ($45 per equivalent residential unit) also will remain the same.

The village says the budget is balanced with no cuts to services or layoffs. One of the main initiatives the council has taken for this upcoming fiscal year is to reassess and adjust the current pay plan for village employees because of “experienced difficulties recruiting and retaining qualified personnel.”

Vice Mayor Jesse Walters commented that salaries of the most “lowly paid” employees have remained stagnant for years and have been in need of a raise. The council budgeted $175,000 to the upcoming fiscal year to implement changes to the pay plan recommended by an outside firm, which includes a 3-percent increase or other adjustment based on the study, for all non-union village employees.

While the budget appears to be largely settled, one issue that will likely won’t be resolved before the budget is finalized and approved is the amount the village expects to pay towards employee pensions. In the past, the village has contributed between $125,000 to $150,000 a year to the pension fund. However, the current account manager for Gabriel, Roeder, Smith & Co., the village’s actuary, says the village should be contributing as much as $400,000 a year to their pension fund, which represents an increase of $250,000 over the last fiscal year.

Village Manager Tom Benton said he was confounded by the firm’s recommendation to pay more than double the current pension contributions, as the village had been advised in the past that the fund was “healthy.” He later said he would meet with the actuary to further investigate the issue. He added that the issue would likely be resolved sometime after the budget deadline and would require a budget amendment should the village find it necessary to contribute more to the village’s pension fund.

The final budget hearing will be at 7 p.m. on Sept. 18 at Village Hall, 10050 NE Second Ave.

The new budget year starts Oct. 1.

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