Coral Gables held its second public budget hearing on Tuesday evening, and it only lasted about 30 minutes, as the city’s leaders unanimously approved the city’s $164.6 million budget, an increase from the $156.2 million proposed in the initial hearing on Sept. 12.
The increase was due to changes in the estimated revenue from the first hearing, which added up to $8.3 million.
The commissioners also approved a tax rate decrease to 5.629 from last year’s rate of 5.669 and a resolution to adopt the city’s capital improvement program for the next five fiscal years (through 2018) without discussion.
One of the major portions of the budget’s increase from last year’s $148 million is multiple improvement projects throughout the city, which will cost about $6.9 million.
The projects include $1.8 million toward landscaping improvements on Ponce de Leon Boulevard, which the leaders on the dais said have been discussed for at least 12 years, and another $1.1 million to repair and upgrade the city’s Public Safety Building which houses the police and fire departments. Additionally $400,000 will go toward renovation of City Hall and $450,000 will go to streetscape enhancements in Kings Bay.
Miles Maronto, a Kings Bay resident, said the proposed projects reflect well on the city’s leadership.
“They’ve listened to the residents. It’s been a long time coming,” said Maronto.
These changes were also applauded by commissioner Vince Lago, who hopes that the parks and infrastructure improvements will continue.
“I think the city’s headed in a great direction,” said Lago. “Would I love to have more money to set aside? Sure, but we’re all dealing with the tough economy.”
The city is also adding eight employees including seven police officers, increasing the force to 191, and an additional fiscal and policy analyst in the city’s finance department.
City Manager Pat Salerno said he was also happy to have decreased the city’s tax rate for the third year in a row.
The city’s 5.629 proposed tax rate will make it the 24th-highest rate out of the 35 cities and municipalities in the county. Biscayne Park has the highest proposed rate for the next budget year at 9.5.
The new budget and tax rate will go into effect on Oct. 1.