Homeowners may pay slightly less taxes but business owners could pay more for permits and fees under Miami Beach’s proposed 2013-2014 budget.
Commissioners on Wednesday gave preliminary approval for the next fiscal year’s budget and tax rate. Both need to pass a second vote on Sept. 30 before becoming final.
The proposed budget includes a slightly lower tax rate, but also new fees and permits. It relies on already-negotiated union concessions and increased contributions from money-making funds. The city is considering creating several new positions, including a compliance officer to tackle potential corruption problems and a manager to ensure cleanliness on Lincoln Road.
Under the proposed tax rate, homeowners would pay $6.14 per $1,000 of taxable property. The longtime owner of a home assessed at $200,000, would pay $942 in tax to the city. That’s about $10 less than this year.
The amount calculated here makes two assumptions: that the homeowner takes the standard $50,000 homestead exemption, and that the assessed value of the home increased by this year’s cap of 1.7 percent. The cap is set by state law.
The proposed budget counts on bringing in more money from some higher fees, as well as new fees and permits. For example, nightclubs would have to pay more when they’re caught over-capacity, going from $3 per person to $4 per person. The city also proposes to create a new fee to pay for the fire department’s response to false alarms, something the police department already charges for. Under the proposal, the fire department would charge $500 for three or more false alarms, after that the fee would go up to $1,000.
Restaurants could also have to pay a new $350 permit fee for grease traps. The city says the fee is necessary to reduce run-off that clogs drainages and requires city staff to clean up.
Next year’s budget projects about $5 million in savings from already negotiated union concessions. This helps set off, in part, a projected $8 million increase in pension and merit-pay increases.
Other savings are expected to come from a “rescope” of the city’s wireless internet project. Undertaken at the end of 2006, Miami Beach envisioned providing free wireless access throughout the city to help bridge what’s been described as the “digital divide” — those who do, and those who don’t, have regular access to the World Wide Web.
The city is now abandoning that ideal to save money. With access slow and spotty, officials propose to better the system at public places such as parks and City Hall, rather than try to provide city-wide internet access.
Another way the city proposes to save money in next year’s budget is by eliminating payouts for employees who don’t use their “planning days.” The city would save $128,000 if the payouts were eliminated.
The days have been controversial. Commissioner Jerry Libbin has called them unauthorized pay raises, but staff has said they were included in compensation packages for new hires as a way to make the city competitive.
Despite the cuts and new fees, the city budget includes new hires. Commissioner Michael Góngora has asked for more information on the proposed 31 new positions. That will be discussed at a budget workshop that has yet to be set.
Among the new positions are a compliance officer and a Lincoln Road Mall manager.
The compliance officer would handle corruption issues. Miami Beach is trying to shake an image of corruption after seven code and fire inspectors were arrested by the FBI and accused of extorting bribes from a nightclub. The city’s top administrator in charge of bids for city projects was also recently arrested and charged with tampering with the process to make money for himself and his friends. Another new cost in the proposed budget: a 24/7 ethics hotline for employees to call and report suspected issues.
The city says a Lincoln Road Mall manager would help with another controversial issue: cleanliness on Lincoln Road. The public promenade, a main tourist attraction, has been plagued with complaints of dirty sidewalks and unkempt landscaping. The manager would work as a liaison for City Hall and the business community, and would also rely on two dedicated code enforcement officers to keep the pedestrian mall tidy.
The new budget year starts Oct. 1.
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