“It keeps numbers low so they look good,” said Sarnoff. “Or it keeps cops on the street waiting for what they consider a significant crime.”
Redirecting the budget money may also get the support of Commissioner Francis Suarez, who also wants more police hired. The city’s three other commissioners haven’t been as vocal about the issue. The five commissioners must set the property-tax rate before midnight Sept. 30.
Other than the police issue, there are few contentious points in the mayor’s 2014 spending plan.
The city’s finances are in better shape than at any time since Regalado became mayor in 2009. It’s the first year since before Regalado was elected that the city won’t have to cut services, freeze salaries or renegotiate union contracts to balance its books.
Regalado’s plan includes money to hire 25 new officers, and includes $550,000 from the general fund to maintain social services that are losing federal funding. The budgets of city offices and departments will remain essentially flat thanks to increased property values, attrition, savings from a recycling program and a fee charged to developers for street closures.
The plan also includes adding millions to the city’s reserves to bring it up to $57 million. The plan increases the police department’s budget by $9 million, to $167.3 million, and keeps the fire department’s budget relatively intact at $99.6 million.
If approved as proposed, the city’s 2014 budget would lower the property tax rate from $8.47 for every $1,000 of taxable property, to $8.43. That means an $8 savings for the owner of a $200,000 home with no homestead exemption.
The mayor called it “the best budget in the past 10 years.”