With Hurricane Irma still on their minds, Miami’s city commissioners gave their tentative approval Tuesday to a $1 billion spending plan that will act as Mayor Tomás Regalado’s final budget before leaving office.
The city, which paid police, firefighters and waste haulers hundreds of hours of overtime during the storm and is now paying private contractors to help clean up about 1 million cubic yards of tree debris, doesn’t yet know what its hurricane preparations and cleanup will cost. The hope is that, whatever the amount, the federal government will reimburse most of it — and that the city will get to it sooner than later.
But commissioners tried to move forward with their everyday business Tuesday. They voted 4 to 1 in favor of a budget that sets a historic level of city spending while also lowering the rate at which property owners pay taxes to the city.
Commissioner Frank Carollo voted against the budget. A second and final vote is scheduled for Sept. 28.
Regalado, currently campaigning for a $400 million general obligation bond that separately from the budget will pay for close to $200 million in storm water and flood prevention projects, said he’s leaving office thinking about climate change and rising seas. His 2018 budget adds about $600,000 toward the city’s sustainability office, which is tasked with bracing the city against climate change.
“There’s got to be a new normal, when we’ve seen so many storms and no one has the answers to tell us why,” Regalado said, doubling down on statements that climate change is fueling stronger hurricanes. “I just want to be remembered as one mayor who did the right thing for the city of Miami.”
Regalado’s budget, which funds a workforce of 4,400 with pension obligations topping $100 million, banks on a tax rate of $8.03 per $1,000 of a property’s assessed value, a drop of about three percent from the rate currently paid by taxpayers. The average owner of a house with a homestead exemption saves about $55 under that plan, according to the budget office.
Still, overall, the city will reap about $23 million more in property taxes due to yet another sharp increase in property values. With the extra money, the city plans to pay for some $6 million in employee raises, new waste hauling trucks, Zika prevention efforts and a relocation of the city’s technology center. The mayor is also touting the creation of a new veterans affairs and homelessness department.