Hialeah ballot question: Voters don’t want to raise taxes to pay for more police

A Miami-Dade Schools patrol car parked outside Hialeah High School on Friday, August 24, 2018.
A Miami-Dade Schools patrol car parked outside Hialeah High School on Friday, August 24, 2018. rkoltun@miamiherald.com

By a wide margin, Hialeah voters told their City Council Tuesday they don’t want to raise their property taxes to pay for more police —including for school security — or other law enforcement expenses.

With all precincts reporting, 71.5 percent of voters had said no to the proposal by Mayor Carlos Hernández, according to the unofficial result.

The ballot question was a non-binding measure that asked voters how they felt about a tax increase. “The purpose and intent of this ordinance is to obtain an expression of elector sentiment,” according to the City Council’s resolution.

The measure proposed that Hialeah’s property tax rate, now $6.3018 per $1,000 of assessed property value, rise by 75 cents to $7.0518. The proposed tax increase would have cost the average Hialeah property owner an additional $12 per month and would have raised an extra $6.7 million per year, according to Hernandez.

The money would have gone to hire more police officers, purchase specialized equipment and technology and train first responders.

Community leaders like Modesto Perez, president of the Miami-Dade Association of Merchants and Neighbors, said the tax increase would have worsened conditions for elderly residents of Hialeah.

“The worst affected will be elderly property owners, who live on a tight budget,” Perez said days before the vote. “That measure also will affect old people who rent their homes. It’s almost certain that rents will increase.”

Former Hialeah Mayor Julio Martinez said he favored increasing security in Hialeah schools but strongly opposed the tax increase.

“My daughter is a teacher and I support security in schools. But increasing taxes shows a lack of respect,” Martinez said. “The people of Hialeah are tired of paying higher taxes and receiving fewer services.”

The tax increase was proposed after the Florida Legislature required at least one armed officer at every school following the Feb. 14 shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that left 17 dead.

Luis Antonio Hernandez contributed to this report.