Cutler Bay council members tentatively agreed Wednesday to keep their tax rate the same for the next budget year.
That means longtime homeowners can expect to pay slightly more due to increased assessed property values. For owners of homesteaded property, the maximum increase this year is 1.7 percent.
“I anticipate, as the mayor, that we will not raise taxes and we will stay flat in terms of proposed budget,” said Mayor Ed MacDougall. “I anticipate that based on the information I have received from the county and the manager. It appears that we are going to be able to stay at our previous millage [tax] rate.”
The town’s tax rate is $2.5702 per $1,000 of taxable property, which would bring in $4.3 million.
MacDougall added that property value has increased by 3.77 percent, the largest such increase of anywhere in South Dade. For properties without the homestead exemption — such as shopping centers, office buildings and rental homes — there’s no limit on the increase in assessed value.
“So we were fortunate to have an increase in income off of properties,” MacDougall said.
Town Manager Rafael Casals, who put the budget of $55.6 million together with his staff, said Cutler Bay is in “great financial shape.”
“We have great reserves right now,” Casals said. “We are able to lead our capital projects with the funds that we have.”
“Even through this downturn, we have been very fiscally conservative with our expenditures so we are coming out of this in a very good way,” he added. “Obviously, our taxes and income are going up because of the increase in property values, but we have been able keep our expenses down and hold onto our reserves.”
Casals said that salaries have been “held in check” with no raises to management and administration salaries.
“In one year, we had a 23 percent decrease in property values,” Casals said. “We had some serious hits like everyone else. So we had to make sure our expenditures were held or reduced.”
Along with maintaining the same tax rate for the fourth straight year, the proposed budget includes a savings of $323,000. Casals added that the budget proposes the addition of two police officers to keep up with the growing population. The town contracts with Miami-Dade County for police service.
The addition of park impact fees will also allow for flexibility in improving town parks.
“The goal tonight was to bring that discussion to council to improve our parks,” Casals said. “We don’t want to be in the business of giving back money. Especially when we know that we have an increased population for our park system. We had a good healthy discussion.”
The Cutler Bay Local, a circular bus operated through Miami-Dade County, saw a record 800 riders this August. That number could soon double or triple, according to Casals, by expanding the service’s days of operation and changing its weekday hours from 8 hours to 10 hours. The bus system, which operates on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, could soon serve both seniors and students Monday through Friday.
“Since the inception of time that is something our residents have always wanted,” Casals said. “In this budget, we want to go to a five-days-per-week service, Monday through Friday, and increase the hours of operation. By doing that we are now capturing our new senior high school traffic and our after school that it will provide our kids an opportunity to ride our busses at a discounted rate of 10 cents per ride.”
“Now some kids can pick up after-school activities where they don’t have to depend on parents. We are meeting two different needs. In the morning we get more of the senior crowd, and in afternoon the after-school crowd.”
The Town Council will hold its final public hearing on the budget at 7 p.m. on Sept. 24 at Town Hall, 10720 Caribbean Blvd.