Palmetto Bay

Palmetto Bay tentatively approves budget, tax rate

Palmetto Bay council members made no substantial changes to next year’s budget at their first budget hearing on Monday.

Unless significant changes are proposed at the final budget hearing on Sept. 22, the village will maintain its tax rate of $2.447 per $1,000 in taxable home value.

But the hearing did come with the announcement that the village is expected to bring in nearly $300,000 less in franchise fees from electricity than originally projected both this year and next.

Renovations in the billions of dollars at Florida Power and Light plants pushed the electricity provider to hold back millions in franchise fees from local governments, village Finance Director Desmond Chin told council.

Instead of the $1.1 million Palmetto Bay had expected to receive from FPL this year, the village will get about $830,000. Next year, Chin says he expects about the same. In the 2012-2013 fiscal year, the village received about $1 million from FPL.

The budget also projected $100,000 in franchise fees for commercial solid waste collection next year, but an item to adopt such a fee in the village died on the dais.

Franchise fees for commercial waste collection are the norm in municipalities across the county, and staff has recommended adopting such a fee before.

Former Palmetto Bay mayor Eugene Flinn – who is running to reclaim his old seat in the upcoming November election – spoke out against the measure.

“Maybe we’re the only city that doesn’t collect it, but shouldn’t that be something we’re proud of – that Palmetto Bay doesn’t go out and collect every tax it possibly can?” Flinn told council. “When you’re trying to build a downtown center, can’t that at least be one incentive?”

Council member Patrick Fiore, who is also running for mayor this November, agreed.

“I understand the desire to generate a little revenue, however, let’s get Palmetto downtown up and running,” he said.

Council member Joan Lindsay took a different view.

“I understand the reluctance to tax potential businesses moving into this area but obviously that isn’t what’s keeping business out of Palmetto Bay. They’re not balking at Cutler Bay’s rate or Pinecrest’s,” she said.

The budget also reclassifies two part-time positions to full-time in the Parks department and allows for hiring a part-time TV and camera technician in the village manager’s office. For the first time since 2008, employees village-wide will receive a 2 percent cost-of-living salary bump.

In self-sustaining departments that do not take from the village general fund for revenue, Public Works will reclassify one bus operator to full-time status, and Building and Capital Projects will hire a new full-time assistant to the building official to assist with expected new development in the village.

Labor negotiations between the county and Miami-Dade police – with which the village contracts for their police services – could, in a worst-case scenario, stick the village with an additional $800,000 in policing costs next year. In anticipation, the village has allocated $7 million for police next year – about $200,000 more than it budgeted for this year and $400,000 more than it actually spent this year.

Chin said after the hearing that it was “still up in the air” what the bill from the county to the village would be. If the additional money allocated and internal cost cutting aren’t enough, he said in August, the village can always do a budget adjustment during the year.

In other business, the council extended Village Manager Ron Williams’ contract, which was set to expire in mid-October, to March 31, 2015 in order to allow any new council members are elected in November the opportunity to decide whether or not they would renew Williams’ contract in the long term.