Miami-Dade County

Miami-Dade cities plan for budget season after countywide property value increase

As cities, towns and villages prepare for budget season and setting tax rates for the new fiscal year, they will all be looking at increases in property values.

The final taxable values, released by the Miami-Dade Property Appraiser’s office July 1, show a 9.4 percent increase in property values countywide. The municipalities leading the way are primarily those with real estate development along the coastline.

Sunny Isles Beach had the largest increase in the county, with a 16.7 percent increase from last year. Mayor George Scholl said he expects to propose a lower tax rate for residents in the next fiscal year. This past year the city adopted a tax rate of $2.60 per $1,000 of assessed property value.

If reduced, it will be the fourth straight year that Sunny Isles Beach lowered the rate, and Scholl credits new development with helping the city continue that trend.

“Due to the growth in our ad-valorem tax base, we have not had to sacrifice services to our residents by cutting budget funding,” Scholl said.

El Portal and Key Biscayne rounded out the top three, with 15.4 and 15.3 percent gains respectively. Key Biscayne also had the largest increase in new construction of any municipality, valued at about $564 million dollars.

El Portal, a village with about 2,300 residents, was boosted by about $3.3 million worth of new construction.

Key Biscayne’s village council passed a resolution at its Tuesday meeting to keep the tax rate at $3 per $1,000 of assessed property value.

Village Manager John Gilbert said the village will continue its planned budget workshop process and will dedicate any surplus revenue toward capital improvements. He said the city is working with about $3.8 million in surplus revenue due to the increased property values.

“Historically we’ve used these numbers to offset our wants, needs and asks,” Gilbert said.

Other larger cities with growing coastal development saw significant growth, including the city of Miami with a 13.1 percent increase in property values and Miami Beach with a 13.3 percent gain.

Miami Beach’s administration sees the increase as a chance to cut property taxes while still pursuing new projects.

“It gives the commission the opportunity to do a significant [property tax rate] rollback,” City Manager Jimmy Morales said. “While at the same time, we’ll be able to do some enhancements.”

“It’s a good year for the taxpayers and Miami Beach,” Morales said.

More suburban cities saw a range of growth with larger cities like Miami Gardens and Hialeah seeing a 4.1 and 7.6 percent increase in values respectively.

When preliminary estimates were released in June, Miami Gardens City Manager Cameron Benson said he was happy with the growth but expected it be larger. With the release of the July 1 figures he said the city will likely propose a tax rate similar to the one passed this fiscal year, about $6.93 per $1,000 of assessed property value.

“I’m pretty certain our recommendation will be to stay status quo with our millage rate; I don’t foresee any changes,” Benson said.

The city had a $40 million decrease in new construction due primarily to the renovations of Sun Life Stadium. Benson said despite that loss, he’d rather see steady small growth than unsteady peaks and valleys.

“At some point it will level off and we’ll have steady growth over a long period of time,” Benson said. “You’d rather see it steady than a big growth and then a big crash.”

In Coral Gables and Doral, two cities that are anticipating development in their downtown areas, the increases were 6.8 percent in Doral and 6.5 percent in the Gables.

At a budget workshop Wednesday, the Coral Gables commission proposed a tax rate of $5.56 per $1,000 of assessed property value, a slight decrease from the past year’s rate of $5.589 per $1,000.

“Key initiatives in this year’s budget center on public safety and the renovation of facilities and recreational areas,” said City Manager Cathy Swanson-Rivenbark at the workshop.

On the low end of the spectrum was the village of Virginia Gardens, which saw a 2.7 percent increase in its property values. Rounding out the bottom three were Miami Springs with a 4.1 percent increase and Palmetto Bay with a 3.6 percent increase.

Virginia Gardens Mayor Spencer Deno said he recognized the growth looks weak compared to other jurisdictions, but said the village was prepared for the small gain. He said that village residents shouldn’t expect a higher tax rate.

“Compared to the increase from the rest of the county, it looks pretty bleak,” Deno said. ”But we have budgeted very responsibly. We’ll be fine.”

Overall, the county saw the taxable values of existing property increase by 8.1 percent. The number jumped to 9.4 percent, thanks to about $2.8 billion of new construction.

In August, homeowners will receive a letter — or “TRIM notice” — giving them their proposed tax rates and budget hearing dates. The letter will also include proposed tax rates for the county, the school board and other local agencies.

Miami Herald Staff Writers Joey Flechas and Monique O. Madan and Herald writers Kathleen Devaney and Rebeca Piccardo contributed to this report.