Key Biscayne’s Village Council will vote Tuesday on a $35.5 million budget that still calls for a small tax increase of just under one percent. At least one council member says the plan spends too much and will propose spending and tax cuts instead.
“It’s still as wasteful as ever, it has too many positions, and they are not necessary,” said Vice Mayor Ed London, who said he will offer specific spending reductions at the final budget hearing. He said he had presented his concerns directly to Village Manager Steve Williamson.
Among his proposed cuts, put forth in a Monday afternoon email: eliminating eight police officers, two administrative assistants, a procurement official, a resilience coordinator, and a gym attendant. On the capital projects, London said he’d delete $600,000 proposed for electrical power line undergrounding, $260,000 in refitting lighting across the Village, and $240,000 in lighting improvements at St. Agnes Catholic Church playing field.
The list of items, London wrote to Williamson, justifies his request to cut $1.7 million from the budget and lower the millage rate to 3.0 mills. The decrease would cut taxes about $242 per household a year, according to figures from the Village.
Williamson’s spending plan adds eight new positions and sets the stage for large capital projects in the future. It would increase taxes about $18 per household a year and differs only slightly from the version presented at the first budget hearing Sept. 8. Village expenditures are still going up 4%, but the millage rate would remain at the current 3.2022. Because taxable property values have increased 0.8%, however, taxpayers will pay out more than last year.
The major accounting change is that a larger percentage of Village income will come from other taxes and user fees instead of the property tax.
“What we were able to do with only a 0.8% increase, while keeping the rate steady, is really a testament to our staff and the manager to be able to keep the rates low and deliver that level of service that these residents expect,” said Chief Financial Officer Benjamin Nussbaum on the Anti-Social radio program Friday.
Bottom line: residents are still paying, they’re just paying in different ways. For example, a new staff position in the Public Works Department is showing up on the stormwater enterprise budget, which is funded from stormwater user fees to the tune of $119,143. The taxation shift appears gradual, but it allowed the administration to hold the millage rate flat. Last year, the Village got about 73% of its revenue from property taxes. For 2022, it’s proposed to be about 71%.
It’s unclear what support London might have for reductions. His proposal, which initially led to a budget deadlock two weeks ago, would likely face opposition from Mayor Mike Davey and Council Members Allison McCormick, Brett Moss and Frank Caplan.
Davey said he expects a lively debate, but voiced support for the manager’s budget.
“We have the right manager, and the right department heads, and we want to let them do their jobs.”
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.