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Opa-locka commissioners fail to agree on closing budget deficit

 

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Continuance of first hearing of Opa-locka city budget will start at 5:01 p.m. on Sept. 23, and the second hearing will start at 5:01 p.m. on Sept. 25 in the City Commission chambers, 780 Fisherman St.


pbuteau@MiamiHerald.com

The Opa-locka City Commission has given itself more time to figure out how to close a deficit of more than $2 million in the proposed 2013-2014 budget after it failed the first hearing.

Last week, commissioners recessed the first hearing of the city’s budget until a continuance at 5:01 p.m. on Sept. 23. However, commissioners gave preliminary approval to a tax increase and the city’s proprietary and special revenue funds.

The budget is in the red by $2.57 million and failed the first reading by a vote of 3-2. Voting to approve the budget were Mayor Myra Taylor and Commissioner Luis Santiago; voting against it were Vice Mayor Joseph Kelley and commissioners Timothy Holmes and Dorothy Johnson.

Among possible options to close the budget gap are eliminating 15 of 25 vacant or new positions. If these positions are eliminated, the city could save about $600,000.

Another option is to lighten claims and insurable losses so Opa-locka can return to its insurance provider.

The insurance provider, The Florida League of Cities, will not renew its policy with the city. Therefore, Opa-locka is “urgently” seeking quotes for insurance coverage to begin Oct. 1, the start of the city’s fiscal year. Opa-locka paid the League $650,000 per year, but cost to replace the premium could be twice that amount based on early indications. The city is considering obtaining a loan for liability and worker’s compensation coverage for one year. This will give it time to set up a risk-management program to reduce claims and insurable losses, thus putting the city in a better position to possibly return to the League.

The budget also reflects a proposed 15 percent increase in health insurance on the budget that amounts to $180,000. To save money and close the gap the city is trying to negotiate an option for health insurance that doesn’t increase premiums.

The city’s property values have fallen 29 percent during the past five years — including a 5.6 percent drop in the past year.

To offset the loss in revenue and help close the budget the gap the city proposed a $9.30 per $1,000 in taxable property value. The current rate is $9.10.

The proposed rate of $9.30 for 2013-2014 will bring the city $5,778,145 in revenue. According to the proposed budget, the $9.30 rate will bring the city $173,095 more in property tax money. Commissioners voted 3-0 to give the increased rate preliminary approval. Santiago and Johnson had not yet arrived for that vote.

The community redevelopment agency will receive $250,000 as a transfer from the water and sewer fund. It includes money to hire an administrative assistant and an outreach coordinator in addition to the CRA director. Of the total amount, $223,300 is for salaries and benefits of CRA staff and $26,700 is for operating expenses.

The second budget hearing is scheduled at 5:01 p.m. on Sept. 25 at 780 Fisherman St.

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