Miami Gardens’ budget proposal includes cutting positions and attempting to collect unpaid fines

Some of the proposals, presented by City Manager Cameron Benson, to keep the budget intact include cutting some staff positions and attempting to collect unpaid fines.

07/21/2014 2:54 PM

07/21/2014 5:37 PM

Miami Gardens has prepared a preliminary budget for the coming 2014-15 fiscal year, and presented the plans during a budget workshop last week at City Hall.

The city plans to develop new business and property, and expand parks programs after residents approved a $60 million general-obligation bond issue in April.

Some of the proposals, presented by City Manager Cameron Benson, to keep the budget intact include cutting some staff positions and attempting to collect unpaid fines. Benson said in his budget message that some of the challenges for the coming year include the completion of the police department headquarters in the new municipal complex and the development of bond projects.

One of the main parts of Benson’s plan for the coming budget year is to reduce the staff in the city’s planning and zoning department. He said the city will look to eliminate two positions, which add up to about $172,000 in salary, and have an outside company handle the work while a planning and zoning director remains in the city.

Red light cameras were a major part of the workshop as Benson noted that about $300,000 of delinquent or unpaid red light camera fines are waiting to be collected and that the staff may potentially hire a collection agency to bring in the funding.

Councilman David Williams asked about the city’s liability based on the state Supreme Court’s ruling last month regarding cities operating red light camera programs improperly from 2008 to 2010.

City Attorney Sonja Dickens said if the city has to pay back all of the individuals who were given tickets during that time frame, it would owe about $4.2 million. Dickens said, based on a ruling in Orlando, that she does not anticipate them having to pay the full amount.

Benson said he hopes the city will continue to apply for more state and federal grant funding for programs throughout the city.

“I think we meet a lot of requirements out there for various grants and I would like to really be a little more aggressive in identifying grants that can help us,” Benson said during the workshop.

The city plans to bring in 20 new police officers in the upcoming fiscal year and Benson said all of those positions have been properly budgeted.

In his budget message, Benson said the police station portion of the city’s municipal complex is expected to be completed by April, after the staff estimated that it could be complete by the end of this year. Staff also estimated that the operation of the new City Hall will be about $808,000.

The first budget hearing to discuss the city’s budget will take place at 6 p.m. Sept. 10 at the Miami Gardens municipal complex, 18605 NW 27th Ave.

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