Councilman Billy Bain saved every resident in Miami Springs about $6 on their tax bill at last Monday night’s meeting but it was not enough for him to vote in favor of the 2013-14 budget that takes effect next week. Mayor Zavier Garcia needed a super majority vote for the 10 percent tax increase the budget called for and he got it when Councilman Jaime Petralanda joined the others with his “yes” vote.
It looked for a while that the council was heading for an instant replay of the 3-2 vote of the last regular meeting two weeks ago, which would have put the proposed budget in jeopardy and forced cuts in spending of $380,000. However, Petralanda “reluctantly” voted in favor of the reduced 7.6710 millage and it will be business as usual in Miami Springs.
This meeting was also the second public hearing on the budget and for the second straight time not a single resident spoke about the tax increase or any changes they would like to see the council make. Either apathy abounds about the budget or the community trusts the decisions of their elected representatives.
Bain, the former four-term mayor of Miami Springs, has been at odds with Garcia throughout the budget process and clearly was frustrated that he was not able to make further cuts in expenses and reduce tax bills by more than a few dollars.
He proposed two budget cuts totaling $100,000—a $25,000 reduction in police overtime pay and $75,000 by not replacing the City Clerk-- that would have saved taxpayers about $25 next year. Petralanda wanted to delete the $20,000 in next year’s budget for the 2015 municipal elections.
Of the three proposed cuts, only the reduction in police overtime for the police was approved (4-1 vote with Michael Windrem dissenting) and that was done only after Police Chief Pete Baan gave his limited approval.
“We are stingy with overtime and use PSA’s whenever we can. If we have a hurricane or a flood we would be in trouble by reducing the overtime budget to $65,000,” said Chief Baan. “But reducing my overtime budget by $25,000 is ‘possibly’ workable but if we need it we need it and you’ll know.”
The discussion on hiring a new City Clerk to replace Magali Valls, who was honored with a Certificate of Appreciation earlier in the meeting, centered on Suzanne Hitaffer, the Acting City Clerk. She and her recently promoted assistant, Elora Sakal, are running the City Clerk’s office as a two-person department.
“You don’t have to budget the whole $75,000 unless we are going to hire a new City Clerk in October and I don’t think you should ask the residents to fund the reserves if we don’t hire someone; but I can see where this is going so just take the vote,” said Bain.
He was right and the lone dissenter when Garcia called the question on taking $75,000 from the City Clerk’s budget. Bain joined Petralanda in the effort to take the $20,000 earmarked for the 2015 but their motion failed by a 2-3 vote.
There were no more adjustments to the budget but Garcia forced a vote on whether the $25,000 from police overtime should be reflected in a reduction of the millage rate or go toward the city’s dwindling reserves.
“I didn’t know $25,000 doesn’t mean anything,” deadpanned Bain. “I don’t care if it saves 18 cents or $3 per household, I assume taking $25,000 out of the budget will reduce the millage.”
Finally Bain got something to go his way, although the vote was 4-1 with Windrem making the somber comment, “our reserves is the ‘Elephant in the Room’ and we need to address that in the near future.”
The final operating budget for the general fund of $15,245,012 for the City of Miami Springs for fiscal 2013-14 that begins Oct. 1 was approved by a 4-1 vote and the lengthy budget process was over.
IN OTHER COUNCIL NEWS:
*Awarded the Officer of the Month to Albert Sandoval, who along with three other Miami Springs police officers identified two white males who were suspects in home burglaries and efficiently investigated the criminal activity. Because of his effort, two serial burglars were arrested and several items of stolen property recovered.
*Approved unanimously on second reading an ordinance that authorizes quarterly rather than monthly meetings for the city’s advisory boards.
*Approved the eight-item Consent Agenda by a 4-1 vote (Bain dissenting) that included waiving the bidding process of the city on three items.
*Approved unanimously the nomination of Doug Orr as the first Wall of Fame recipient by the Recreation Commission. Applications for nominations for the Wall of Fame by the public are available at the City Clerk’s office and online.
*Approved unanimously a resolution commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the Viet Nam War and expressing support for the November 8, 2013 parade sponsored by the Miami-Dade County Military Affairs Board.