Miami Lakes

Miami Lakes keeps 2015-16 tax rate steady, but property values rise slightly

The Miami Lakes council approved its 2015-16 budget, and as expected the town’s property tax rate is status quo. Still, most tax bills will rise slightly next year.

The town’s tax rate will remain at $2.35 per $1,000 of assessed property value, but property values in Miami Lakes have experienced a 4.4 percent growth.

This means that under the tax rate a home valued at $192,000, the median value in the town, would pay about $337 in taxes, about $5 more than the previous budget year. This amount assumes that the owners received the standard homestead exemption and the home’s assessed value increased 0.8 percent, the maximum allowed by law this year for an owner-occupied home.

The council unanimously approved the rate during a Sept. 28 budget hearing — the overall budget of the town was approved by the same amount.

Before the approximately $16.3 million budget was passed, the council made two amendments.

The first was to add $15,000 to the budget, which the town received from Miami-Dade County Commissioner Esteban Bovo’s office to cover senior programs in the town for the next six months.

The second change was to put aside $50,000 of its budget to cover an increase in the town’s insurance rates as recent legal battles have made Miami Lakes a riskier client.

That money will be taken from the $56,000 the insurance reimbursed the town for paying Mayor Michael Pizzi’s back pay from his time away from office while he successfully fought federal corruption charges.

Both changes add $65,000 to the town’s budget.

“I think we have a good budget that’s fiscally sound and stable,” Pizzi said. “I support the budget, I support the changes.”

This budget year is a tight one. Miami Lakes council members went into the planning process with major factors looming overhead — such as the then-unknown amount Pizzi would ask the town to cover in his legal fees.

Since the budget was released Pizzi’s attorneys filed two suits against the town for $3.25 million in coverage of legal bills. The town’s insurance company has declined to pay that bill.

In response to these factors Miami Lakes will not get into any new beautification projects, capital improvements in the parks — other than projects already in construction — and additional policing in their budget.

In addition, town committees didn’t get a raise in budget in this year — meaning that some that wanted to expand services or ask for more money had to get rid of programs and events in order to accommodate their budget.

“I think we were able to fund things that are higher property and property try to get a bigger bang for the buck in terms of the committee budgets,” Town Manager Alex Rey said.