Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez is poised to win approval of his fifth budget as mayor Thursday night. How much of a difference do five years make?
Dade Data set out to answer part of that question by comparing department spending in the mayor’s proposed budget with the totals as they stood when he took office in 2011. Overall, the county’s $4.7 billion operating budget has dropped by 2.9 percent since Gimenez became mayor and promptly reversed an unpopular 13 percent tax-rate hike imposed by his predecessor, Carlos Alvarez.
The 2.9 percent spending drop incorporates more than just taxes —there are revenues earned by the airport and seaport, federal and state grants and other dollars that fund day-to-day operations of the county government. Look at just the general fund — a $1.7 billion pool of money made up mostly of property taxes — and that has fully recovered thanks to higher real estate values.
In Gimenez’s proposed budget, general-fund spending is up 2 percent compared to the 2010-11 budget, with an extra $35 million. That wasn’t the case during the current budget year, when the general fund still lagged the 2010-11 level by 6 percent.
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So where does the extra money leave county departments under the Gimenez era? This chart compares each department’s proposed 2016 budget with its budget in 2011. The figures include all revenue sources, including grants and fees.
Some changes stand out. With two new museums, the Perez Art Museum Miami and the under-construction Frost Science Museum, Miami-Dade is spending more on cultural institutions. The Economic Advocacy Trust, which promotes prosperity for the county’s black residents, fared particularly well as the real estate fees that help fund it rebounded with the housing market.
62 percentIncrease of transit-tax revenue since Carlos Gimenez became mayor of Miami-Dade County
Animal Services, subject of a 2012 ballot item that urged more funding, saw its budget increase nearly 80 percent under Gimenez. Spending is also nearly doubled in the elections department, though a large chunk of that is thanks to 2016 being a presidential-election year.
Sure to raise some eyebrows is the 41 percent increase for Transit. While a favorite target for critics, spending is definitely up on public transportation under Gimenez. The general fund contributed $154 million to Transit in 2011, compared to $174 million in 2016. It would have been more, but Gimenez skipped a scheduled increase in general-fund spending on Transit for the current budget in order to ease a revenue squeeze. The revenue from the half-percent sales tax that funds Transit has soared in the economic recovery: up more than 60 percent since 2011 to $205 million.
22 percentDecrease of general-fund dollars for the county’s Human Services agency since Carlos Gimenez became of mayor of Miami-Dade County
On the decline side, the county’s human-services department (officially, Community Action and Human Services) saw the biggest drop with a 63 percent plunge. The county’s public housing department wasn’t far behind, with a nearly 60 percent drop.
Jennifer Moon, the county’s budget director, said the decline came thanks to changes in federal and state grants both agencies receive and, in some cases, different accounting methods for recording the revenue.
The housing department receives no general-fund dollars, but does rely on a local real estate fee for some of its revenue.
For the Community Action department, general fund dollars have dropped about 22 percent under Gimenez — from $37 million in 2011 to $29 million in his proposed 2016 budget. Moon said the general-fund decline followed the lost grants, which required local matching dollars. Without the grants, she said, the local dollars weren’t needed.
Michael Hernández, Gimenez’s spokesman, said in a statement: “The County will continue to fund the needs of the Human Services Department. Unfortunately, the State and Federal governments are not providing the same levels of support via matching funds.”
Dade Data is an online series analyzing the numbers behind Miami-Dade County government.