Miami Gardens - Opa-locka

Council gives initial approval to 2015 budget

Miami Gardens council members tentatively approved the city budget for the coming 2014-15 fiscal year Wednesday night, with plans to donate money to five of the city’s Crime Watch programs and to potentially add a new staff member to work with the City Council.

The budget includes funding from the federal COPS grant to add 10 new police officers and staff may also add a new administrative assistant position to assist the City Council. The six council members currently share two staff assistants.

Mayor Oliver Gilbert suggested that a part-time employee currently working in the City Clerk’s office could be brought on to fill that gap. City Manager Cameron Benson said he will consider that for the second hearing on the budget. The city will also explore budgeting money to continue the Miss Miami Gardens pageant. The pageant has not been held since 2011.

Benson said in his initial budget message that some of the challenges for the coming year include the completion of the police department headquarters in the new municipal complex and the development of bond projects.

One of the main parts of Benson’s plan for the coming budget year is to reduce the staff in the city’s planning and zoning department.

He said the city will look to eliminate two positions, which add up to about $172,000 in salary, and have an outside company handle the work while a planning and zoning director remains in the city.

The council also approved a resolution setting the tax rate at $6.93 per $1,000 of assessed property value, which falls in line with last year's rate. But this year, homeowners will pay an additional $1.30 per $1,000 to pay off the city’s $60 million general obligation bond issue.

At the regular City Council meeting on Wednesday night the council voted to appoint Councilwoman Felicia Robinson as the new vice mayor. Former Vice Mayor Lisa Davis, who was re-elected to Seat 2 last month, applauded the choice. Mayor Gilbert, who sponsored the item, said Robinson was his first choice.

“I think she will serve diligently and she will serve ably,” Gilbert said.

Also at the meeting, the council passed multiple items on the consent agenda approving $10,000 in funding, from the special event fund, for Davis and Robinson’s diabetes and breast cancer awareness events respectively.

The council also voted to approve a $130,000 settlement with Aggreko LLC after the company sued the city in 2012 over an alleged breach of contract for equipment used in the Jazz in the Gardens festival.

The next budget hearing will take place 6 p.m. Sept. 22 at Miami Gardens City Hall, 18650 NW 27th Ave. The next City Council meeting will take place at 7 p.m. on the same night.