Miami-Dade commissioners take their first votes Tuesday on the county’s 2018 budget, a $7.4 billion spending plan that includes flat property tax rates and transit cuts, and a new rate structure for water that would boost the typical bill by about $90 a year.
The county doesn’t plan to increase water rates itself, but will reshuffle usage categories so that many residents will be charged more for the same volume of water. Budget documents say the median residential customer uses 5,236 gallons of water every 30 days and is charged $35.10 a month. Under the new rate structure for the county’s 441,000 water accounts, that monthly bill would increase $7.44 to $42.53.
Miami-Dade says the projected higher payments come from limiting the discounts currently offered the county’s lowest water users.
With conservation measures like low-flow shower heads decreasing water use countywide, more accounts were falling into the discounted tiers for usage. Miami-Dade currently charges $1.85 every 90 days per 1,000 gallons up to 11,220 gallons of water. Then the rate spikes to $8.80 per 1,000 gallons. Mayor Carlos Gimenez’s proposed 2018 budget, which takes effect Oct. 1, shifts to the higher rate after 8,976 gallons.
In July, the County Commission set the current property-tax rates as the ceiling for 2018, but the 13-member board could still opt to lower them. The commission is set to take its first budget vote during an evening meeting on Tuesday. The session officially begins at 5:01 p.m., and the public will be given time (typically between one and two minutes) to address commissioners before the string of budget votes needed to approve the three-volume spending plan.
Hurricane Irma delayed the first budget meeting, which was originally scheduled to occur Sept. 7. Miami-Dade hasn’t announced when the final vote will happen.
With sales-tax revenues not hitting their targets in 2017, the budget includes cost-saving measures, including freezing hundreds of vacant positions and extending cuts the county imposed this year on Metrorail and its bus system. But the storm disruption could also sap the public feedback that has pushed previous budget hearings to the midnight hour and beyond.
“All the calls in my office have been power, power, power. Cable, cable, cable,” said County Commissioner Rebeca Sosa. “People are so concerned with the hurricane right now.”