Miami Gardens City Council members say they want to beef up the safety and security of the city’s residents in the next budget year.
With that goal in mind, they have increased the city’s tax rate from $6.30 per $1,000 of assessed property value to $6.90 in order to hire 10 new police officers — a 9.5 percent rate increase totaling an extra $15.60 per year.
These rates are based on an average assessed home value of $76,000 and figuring in a $50,000 homestead exemption.
Additionally, the council balanced the city’s budget — which was $2 million dollars in the hole, by cutting back expenses, laying off eight city employees, converting one full-time city employee to part-time, and using yearly gained revenue.
Although the crime rate in Miami Gardens decreased for a fifth straight year and is lower than cities such as Miami, Miami Beach, South Miami, Aventura, Fort Lauderdale, Orlando and St. Petersburg, council members said they felt their priority was to help keep the streets safe and have police cars visible on the streets.
“We’re a new city, and people just have a misconception of Miami Gardens due to high-profile murder cases that occurred 10 to 15 years ago,” City Manager Danny Crew said. “With vehicles outside, the perception is lost.”
According to Mayor Oliver Gilbert, Miami Gardens currently has 212 police officers on staff, even though the U.S. Census Bureau recommends 280.
“We need more officers on the street — it’s how we get developers interested in our city, how we get companies to obtain properties, and how we get residents to move here,” Gilbert said.
Gilbert actions were meant to benefit the city’s growth.
“I don’t like paying taxes, just as much as you do. As a matter of fact, I affirmatively hate paying taxes, but this is a decision you have to make to get things in order, and $20 for the year is a small price to pay for our safety,” said Gilbert. “We need this for our kids in the parks, for our senior citizens, and for everyone that is walking through our city.”
Although property values went down by 4.8 percent for 2013, Crew said residents can look forward to a brighter future.
“We’ve had a tough four years, but we’ve been very fortunate to retain our financial position,” Crew said. “We have about $11 million in reserves, which is a pretty strong reserve, and we are rated by three of the top rating agencies in New York with an A+.”