North Miami - NMB

With few amendments and a little criticism, North Miami approves final 2015-16 budget

North Miami has given final approval to its tax rate and amended budget for the 2015-16 fiscal year.

The city council unanimously approved both items at the Sept. 30 budget hearing with a few amendments and some criticism of city staff by council members.

Staff proposed three amendments to the budget that night including hiring a compliance manager and hiring a property manager for the SoLe Mia site. The city terminated a contract with Joe Celestin and his company in February and advertised a bid for his replacement. Due to an oversight, staff hadn’t included the position as a line item in the 2015-16 budget.

“Why is all this information coming out now?” Mayor Smith Joseph said at the meeting.

The items were ultimately deferred until a future meeting.

There was also some confusion on a portion of money the city will receive when it closes the SoLe Mia sale, the negotiations are ongoing and City Manager Aleem Ghany said a previously proposed amount of $6 million has been reduced to $4.4 million.

Council members Scott Galvin and Philippe Bien-Aime asked why the change hadn’t been communicated to the council and said some staff members are too comfortable in their positions.

“Communicate, we’ve got so many staff members in this building, somebody communicate,” Galvin said.

The city's budget is about $136 million, with about $57 million going toward the general fund. The amendments at Wednesday’s hearing included Galvin removing a budgeted constituent service aide position for his district. The salary of about $22,000 will instead go to the District 1 allotment for housing, roadway and capital improvements.

The budget also includes a reduction in proposed salaries for the city manager and city attorney to $200,000 each (down from proposed salaries of about $225,000 and $226,000, respectively). The city will also hold off on purchasing 40 new police vehicles and reduced spending on a federal lobbyist from $80,000 to $30,000.

Those recommendations came from the first budget hearing and 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 park furniture at the city's smaller satellite parks.

The city also plans to hire two new police officers through grant funding. North Miami has not budgeted money to hire new code enforcement officers.

The general fund includes about $200,000 for improvements at Thomas Sasso Pool and about $100,000 to hire constituent service aides to assist the mayor and council.

The approval of the tax rate means 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.