For a few moments last night, it wasn’t clear if the Village of Key Biscayne would have a budget.
Three Council members voted to reject manager Steve Williamson’s proposed budget, causing a 3-3 deadlock. Council members voted twice to pass a budget on first reading — and failed.
“This is ridiculous to be pulling up at 10:30 at night,” said Mayor Mike Davey of the sudden tax reduction proposal. “This should have been stated at the beginning of the budget.” Council Members had just spent four hours going over Williamson’s spending plan in detail with department heads.
In the end, the Council voted to tentatively approve the $35.7 million dollar spending plan and a tax increase of 1.3 percent as proposed by Village Manager Steve Williamson – but only after Mayor Mike Davey asked if he could summon absent Council Member Allison McCormick to the chamber to break the tie. McCormick had left the dais about 40 minutes earlier for a personal emergency.
Key Biscayne already has the lowest millage in Miami-Dade County, but Vice Mayor Ed London and Council Members Ignacio Seurola and Luis Lauredo wanted to go lower. London proposed a rate of 3.0 mills, which would have slashed tax revenue by about $1.7 million. “Let the manager then decide how he allocates it,” London said.
Segurola proposed a less severe “rollback” cut of about $491,000, but none of the three council members announced how they would cut spending or identify which programs or staff should be reduced.
“I disagree with that completely,” said Council Member Brett Moss, who called the proposal a “tactic.”
‘If we want to reduce it, we go back through the budget, and tell them what we want to reduce,” said Moss.
Segurola shot back: “This is not a tactic. This is pure policy.”
London’s motion deadlocked with Davey, Moss and Council Member Frank Caplan voting no — and then London, Lauredo, and Segurola voted no on the original tax rate.
“Chad,” Davey asked as he turned to the Village attorney, Chad Friedman. “What’s the policy for requiring a council member to attend who is not here? She’s gotta break the vote.”
At that point, London said it would be pointless to continue pressing for a tax cut and changed his vote to yes in favor of the manager’s original plan. He said he’d renew his motion at the final budget meeting Sept. 21.
Lauredo agreed. “They have the votes, anyway,” he said. He turned to Williamson and said “it’s clear we are pretty divided on this. Do what you can.”
McCormick said she was unaware of the drama that unfolded after she left the meeting until Thursday morning, dealing with a problem she declined to identify until 2:30 a.m.
“I didn’t see that coming,” she said.
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.