Bay Harbor Islands council members have proposed a $19,935,362 budget for the next fiscal year, a 15.7 percent increase from this year.
The Tuesday vote was unanimous.
The increase is mainly due to the anticipated rising cost of Miami-Dade county water and sewage rates as well as healthcare for town employees. Miami-Dade County has indicated wholesale rates for water and sewage will increase by 3.93 and 4.39 percent respectively. A 10 percent increase has been allotted for the health insurance budget.
However, the tax rate would be lower than this year’s at $4.9 per $1,000 of taxable property. This reflects the increase in the town’s overall property value assessed in July.
Once the council declares a preliminary tax rate, it cannot be increased during the budget hearings, only lowered or maintained.
If the proposed budget is approved, the typical town homeowner with a property assessed at $300,000 who takes the $50,000 homestead exemption would pay $1,225.
The bill would be about $88 lower than last year — but only if that property’s value remained the same despite a hike in the town’s overall taxable value. From the town’s final number last year, the appraised value has risen by $111,126,687, not including recent construction of $28,321,584.
At the budget meeting, council members discussed dipping into town reserves from transfer of development rights (TDR) sales to get closer to the rolled-back rate of $4.5649 per $1,000 of property. The rolled-back rate is when the town produces a tax levy equal to that of the preceding year.
“I would personally be comfortable going back to the rolled-back rate because there is wiggle room here,” Councilman Isaac Salver said.
But no final decisions regarding the TDR sale revenue were made as some council members thought it would be prudent to allocate from reserves for this reason.
“I am very hesitant to spending one-time dollars for reoccurring expenses,” Councilman Jordan W. Leonard said. “Theoretically, paying for the budget is a reoccurring expense in the simplest form. You are going to have to come back next year and pay more money.”
Others council members argued this would be a misuse of the funds.
“We told the public that we were selling the TDRs for enhancements — to increase the the facilities, to increase the benefits for the citizens — not to fill holes,” Councilman Joshua D. Fuller said.
Ultimately, the council decided to discuss the issue further at future meetings. Public hearings to discuss the budget are planned for 7 p.m. Sept. 8 and Sept. 22.