Key Biscayne

Key Biscayne delays decision on property-tax rate

The Key Biscayne Village Council approved a $33 million budget that includes salary increases and cost-of-living adjustments for village employees and a decrease in health insurance costs as a result of new union contracts.

About 40 residents attended the public budget hearing last week, which was the first of two. But only a few addressed the council, on matters ranging from requests for money to a complaint about taxes.

Conchita Suarez addressed the council about the entrance to the dog park at 530 Crandon Blvd. She said the entrance is not compliant with Americans with Disabilities Act requirements and asked the council to make it more accessible.

“It’s hard for the elderly and the disabled to get in,” she said.

Gina Coleman, a member of the village’s Art in Public Places board, asked the council for their continued financial support to expand educational programs and art projects.

The council also heard funding requests from the public.

Resident Katie Petros, a member of the dog park committee, requested $10,000 to fund events at the dog park.

“We want to increase community involvement,” she said.

Representatives of the Key Biscayne Community Foundation asked for $15,000 to bring theater performances to the village. Susan Westfall, co-founder of City Theatre, wants to bring her acclaimed Summer Shorts plays to the village for six performances.

The council approved both requests.

Firefighters and police will receive a 5 percent salary increase and other employees will receive salary increases of 4 percent. New union contracts for police and fire led to a 20 percent cut in health insurance costs for the village.

Council members voted to postpone a discussion on the millage rate until the second budget vote on Sept. 23. The village announced a millage rate of $3 per $1000 of taxable home value — the same as this year’s rate — in July. Council members Michael E. Kelly and Edward London want to lower the rate because of the amount of the village’s $22 million reserve.

Resident Sarah Fernandez-Mendoza addressed the council to comment on her high tax bill. Council member Michael E. Kelly said the tax bill reflects an increase in assessed property values of about $545 million. Fernandez-Mendoza said she didn’t think her property could be valued the same as others on the island.

“It’s a big bill,” she said.

Under the Florida Constitution, the assessed value of an owner-occupied home cannot increase more than 3 percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is less. This year’s limit is 1.5 percent.

Council members will also discuss car allowances for village employees and the addition of two new officers to the police marine patrol unit.

Department heads, the chief of staff and the public works superintendent get $500 a month as a car allowance. The council decided to survey what perks other municipalities offer their executive staff and come to a decision about cutting or reducing that perk at the next budget hearing.

That hearing will be at 7 p.m. on Sept. 23 at Village Hall, 88 W. McIntyre St.