Coral Gables

Coral Gables approves tax rate, spending plan

The Coral Gables City Commission last week gave final approval to the city budget and tax rate for the 2014-15 fiscal year, which began Wednesday.

The commission unanimously approved the tax rate of $5.59 per $1,000 of taxable assessed property value at its second budget hearing. That rate is down slightly from this year’s rate of $5.63, but homeowners will still pay more.

That’s because the tax cut is too small to offset even the small increase in assessed home values allowed by the state constitution for owner-occupied residences.

The owner of a home assessed at $590,000 would pay about $3,068 in city property tax, a $28 increase from this year, assuming the owner qualifies for the standard homestead exemption and the home’s assessed value increased by 1.5 percent, the maximum allowed this year for an owner-occupied home.

Commissioners also passed their five-year, $141 million capital improvement plan. It outlined projects and programs aimed at renovating, enhancing or preserving the city through 2019. Included are major purchases for the fire department, police department, office equipment and bridge renovations.

Over the next five years, about $1.23 million will go toward the renovation of two fire stations. The fire department also requested three hydraulic extrication tool sets, which are used by to assist in rescuing victims of vehicle crashes.

About $4 million will go toward the development of a new downtown civic plaza and garden. More than $6 million will go toward streetscape improvements.

In addition, $60,000 will go toward a computer software program for the police department that is intended to measure and predict crime. Officers also will get vehicle laptop mounts for new police cars.

City employees will get new telephone handsets for their offices at a cost of about $80,000.

The Williams H. Kerdyk/Biltmore Tennis Center will also be renovated. Courts will be resurfaced and the entrance will be beautified.