North Miami - NMB

North Miami gives initial approval to budget, tax rate for new fiscal year

North Miami has given initial approval to its tax rate and amended budget for the 2015-16 fiscal year with plans to fund park improvements, sidewalk repairs and library books.

The City Council approved both items at Monday’s budget hearing with a 5-0 vote for the tax rate and a 4-1 vote for the budget. Councilman Scott Galvin voted against the budget.

The city’s budget is about $136 million with about $57 million going toward the general fund. Among the major changes the council members recommended was reducing potential salaries for the city manager and city attorney to $200,000 each (down from proposed salaries of $225,000 and $226,000, respectively). Additionally, they council agreed not to purchase 40 new police vehicles and to reduce spending on a federal lobbyist from $80,000 to $30,000.

Those recommendations freed up a little more than $500,000, which council members decided to split up by designating an additional $250,000 for sidewalk improvements ($100,000 was budgeted), $50,000 for new library books, $200,000 for the city’s housing rehabilitation program and the remaining money going toward improvements at the city’s smaller satellite parks.

“We cannot just keep trying to patch things up as we go along,” said Mayor Smith Joseph about the city’s sidewalk improvements.

The city also hopes to hire three new police officers through grant funding that has not yet been awarded. Also, despite some residents and council members expressing concerns, the city has not budgeted any funding to hire new code enforcement officers.

The general fund includes about $200,000 for improvements at Thomas Sasso Pool and about $120,000 to hire five constituent service aides to assist the mayor and council. Galvin suggested amending the budget to reduce the aides from five to two but did not receive support on his motion.

“My opinion is they are unnecessary staff members,” Galvin said.

The initial approval of the tax rate means that it will remain at the proposed rate of $7.93 per $1,000 of assessed property value. Under that rate, which is the same as last year’s, the owner of a median home valued at about $77,000 (taken from the median assessed value from the Miami-Dade property appraiser) would pay about $218 in property taxes.

The city will host its second budget hearing 6:30 p.m. Sept. 30 at North Miami City Hall, 776 NE 125th St.

Lance Dixon: 305-376-3708, @LDixon_3