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Village Manager Steve Williamson released a scaled-down $35 million budget on Friday that would increase property taxes by 1.3%, on average. The tax increase is much less than the nearly five percent tax hike he projected in July, but the plan still includes many new positions the manager says are essential.

The biggest change? An extra million dollars coming from the federal government under the American Recovery Plan Act, which now will send a total of $6.4 million to the Village over two years, according to Chief Financial Officer Benjamin Nussbaum. The federal funds are not being directly applied to the operations budget, but do impact expensive capital projects. 

The budget faces its first public hearing Sept. 8.

Nussbaum said a combination of more state sales tax revenue and decreased insurance costs helped officials scale down the projection for higher taxes, with an improvement of $828,000 from the July budget estimate. That helped public safety departments to scale back their estimates for police and fire services although still up from last year. And community groups are being kept at last year’s pandemic-reduced levels, instead of a hoped-for resumption of more in-person events. 

Still, despite all the trimming, operating expenditures would rise 3% from last year, to $35.4 million, largely due to increases in labor costs and several new positions. The increase in property taxes comes from the combination of a rise in property values of 0.8% and a millage increase of 0.5%.

New Hires

The administration intends to hire two additional police officers, four part-time beach rangers, a public works superintendent, an additional code compliance officer, and a municipal planner. Also added is a new program coordinator to take over from administrative work previously done by the Key Biscayne Community Foundation.

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“To meet our residents expectations now and for the future, we are seeking new staff positions. Our employees are our most important resource. They should be looked at as an investment, not a cost,” Williamson said in statement.

The impact of the increased personnel cost is somewhat blunted by an accounting maneuver to allocate some of the payroll expense to separate budgets for stormwater, solid waste, and transportation funds. The accounting change makes the general fund budget look smaller, because portions of some staff salaries would be shifted to dollars collected from user fees and sales taxes, instead of property taxes. 

“We continue to do cost allocation studies to ensure existing positions and new positions alike are being properly allocated based on time and function,” Nussbaum wrote. 

Key Biscayne Mayor Mike Davey said he is confident that Williamson’s recommendations about staffing levels are sound. “He is managing to what our residents expect in terms of services and performance.

Big Projects

Williamson’s budget includes $3.5 million in Capital projects in 2022, a broad category that covers everything from $300,000 to replace aging vehicles, to parks, and resiliency projects. 

Some of the larger highlights:

  • $1.5 million  for stormwater improvements at the K-8 Center
  • $600,000 for phase one of power line undergrounding
  • $583,000 for Beach Park improvements
  • $500,000 for  Bike and Pedestrian improvements on Crandon Blvd. 
  • $260,000 for Community Center lighting retrofit
  • $200,000 for Community Center roof replacement
  • $60,000 for  Electric Vehicle Charging Stations

The public will get to weigh in on the budget  twice — Sept. 8, and a final hearing on Sept. 21, The budget takes effect Oct. 1. 

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Tony Winton is the editor-in-chief of the Key Biscayne Independent and president of Miami Fourth Estate, Inc. He worked previously at The Associated Press for three decades winning multiple Edward R. Murrow awards. He was president of the News Media Guild, a journalism union, for 10 years. Born in Chicago, he is a graduate of Columbia University. His interests are photography and technology, sailing, cooking, and science fiction.

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Tony Winton is the editor-in-chief of the Key Biscayne Independent and president of Miami Fourth Estate, Inc. He worked previously at The Associated Press for three decades winning multiple Edward R. Murrow...