Aventura - Sunny Isles

Sunny Isles Beach approves budget, plans to boost services

Sunny Isles Beach city commissioners last week gave their final approval to a $76 million city budget for the upcoming fiscal year that shifts away from capital projects and toward providing “world class services and maintenance” to its residents.

The budget approved Tuesday is smaller than this year’s $93 million, which included at least $40 million for the construction of major one-time projects such as Gateway Park at 18115 North Bay Road and two pedestrian bridges.

Gateway Park, which will include restaurants, a water feature and a theater stage, is expected to be complete in March, and construction of the pedestrian bridges is expected to begin this year.

The 2015 budget year starts Wednesday.

The new budget includes $2 million of an estimated $2.5 million for the redesign of the Gilbert Samson Oceanfront Park at 17425 Collins Ave. About $500,000 for the project was included in the 2014 budget.

The renovation of Samson Park includes an expansion of restrooms, construction of a covered-platform performance area and playground, and new electrical and sewer systems, City Manager Chris Russo said. Construction is expected to begin in May and be completed by the end of 2015.

As the capital projects are completed, the city’s focus will shift to improving services and maintenance for at least the next five years, Russo said. This goal resulted in a 9 percent increase in operating expenses to $49.3 million compared to last year’s $42.9 million.

The 2015 budget also includes an increase in the city’s reserves for emergencies and other contingencies to almost $19 million from this year’s $13 million, Russo said.

About $1 million of this year’s reserves were used to repair a seawall that collapsed in August behind Intracoastal Park at 16100 Collins Ave, Russo said.

“That has never happened in the history of the city,” Russo said. “That is the first time the city manager had to spend that kind of money since the city was formed during the month the commission is on recess,” said Russo, adding that the commission approved the expense afterward. “This was an emergency repair that we had to initiate,” he said.

The commissioners also approved a property-tax rate of $2.60 per $1,000 in taxable assessed value, down slightly from this year’s $2.70. This is expected to generate almost $19 million, compared to last year’s $17.7 million, due to the rise in property values. This means many residents will pay more in city taxes despite the lower rate.