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South Miami budget includes drainage improvements, license-plate readers


Special to the Miami Herald

South Miami commissioners have tentatively approved a $21.2 million budget for the 2013-14 fiscal year, a 4.8 percent increase from this year.

The budget is scheduled for final approval after a public hearing at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall, 6130 Sunset Drive.

The tax rate would remain the same as this year's, at $4.3639 for every $1,000 of taxable property. That means that the longtime owner of a $200,000 home will pay about $669. That is a $15 increase, and assumes the homeowner qualifies for the $50,000 homestead exemption, and that the home’s taxable value increased by 1.7 percent, the maximum allowed this year for an owner-occupied home.

Chief Financial Officer Alfredo Riverol said the proposed spending increase is due to the city budgeting more than $200,000 more for the sixth phase of a citywide storm-water drainage system improvement project; about $100,000 for license-plate readers that will be installed on some police cars; and about $61,000 more for transportation project improvements such as street and median upgrades.

The city is able to afford the extra spending without raising property taxes and other fees because it has accumulated savings in different funds over the years.

The license plate readers will be funded through the federal forfeitures fund, an account where revenue has accumulated during the past couple of years from drug busts and similar police operations.

“That fund is really rich at the moment,” said Mayor Philip Stoddard.

Money from the forfeiture fund can only be spent on drug-prevention programs and safety initiatives such as the license-plate readers.

South Miami projects to collect an extra $100,000 next year from electric utility fees because of increases in electricity cost, said Riverol.

In addition, the city is expecting to collect more from building-permit fees.

“During the recession construction largely stopped and now we have a number of projects in the city,” said Stoddard, adding that there are both residential and commercial projects underway.

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