As summer draws to a close, the city of Miami is putting the final touches on a $1 billion-plus budget that places residents on a pathway to prosperity and improves their quality of life, while making our neighborhoods safer and more resilient. It also reflects our commitment to delivering a more fiscally responsible government through gained efficiencies and tax savings, with a smaller budget and the second-lowest millage rate in 55 years.
This pathway to prosperity makes economic opportunity accessible to all residents. It also ensures that the most vulnerable residents have access to the tools to put them on firmer financial footing. The budget expands the successful anti-poverty initiatives throughout the city. It also funds the Children’s Savings Account program, one of the largest such programs in the United States. It prepares future leaders for success by ensuring every kindergartner in the city has access to a savings account, making them far more likely to graduate from college.
We are are committing $1 million to the new Elderly Rent Credit program aimed at helping seniors bridge the gap between income and rent and marking the first time we, as a city, commit general-fund money to affordable housing. We also unveiled the Dr. Eduardo J. Padrón Scholarship Fund that will give 50 deserving city of Miami students a grant to complete their education at Miami Dade College, allowing them and their families to prosper.
While the city’s homicide rate hit a more than 50-year low, the safety of our neighborhoods and residents continues to be a top priority. The budget builds upon the progress we have made as by having the most police officers in the city’s history and allowing the police department to free up more officers to patrol neighborhoods and streets.
The city is addressing the challenge of being on the front lines of sea-level rise and climate change by tackling the issue head on through a comprehensive and holistic resiliency strategy. We continue to make major investments in projects that will help us become more resilient to flooding and other climate events. This builds on the $400 million Miami Forever Bond, putting us in a position to face and recover from climatic events and other stressors.
Finally, we are providing much-needed tax relief by lowering the millage rate to its second lowest level in 55 years. We are also proud that this year’s budget is less than the current year’s amended budget. Additionally, by successfully negotiating favorable settlements with two key labor unions, we will further save taxpayers tens of millions of dollars over the long term. In fact, this budget sets aside $2 million to begin rebuilding reserves after these large settlements. Our strengthened financial reserves protect us against future challenges such as hurricanes or an economic downturn.
Ensuring a pathway to prosperity and a high quality of life for all residents while keeping our neighborhoods safe and resilient is the hallmark of our budget. All this is accomplished while lowering the tax burden, having a smaller budget, and increasing our reserves.
We look forward to hearing from Miamians at two public hearings, on Sept. 12 and 26, at City Hall. Together, we can set this robust budget to ensure that the Magic City remains on a positive, sustainable financial path for years to come.
Francis Suarez is mayor of the city of Miami. Emilio T. Gonzalez is Miami’s city manager.