Key Biscayne Manager Steve Williamson listens at a Village Council Meeting, May 10, 2022. (KBI Photo/Tony Winton)
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Citing inflation pressures and millions in new public works spending, Key Biscayne Manager Steve Williamson is proposing a $35.9 million budget that would raise property taxes an average of 13%. The operating budget increase, however, is just 2%. 

The budget gets its first hearing tonight, where Williamson will ask the Village Council to establish the “millage cap” or tax rate. The eye-popping tax increase is actually two factors working together — a rise of 8.8 percent in taxable property values and a proposed increase in the tax rate of nearly 3.9%.

“I lay out the strategic goals of what our community expects,” said Williamson, who stressed the document is an estimate.

“We have talked to them over the past year and we have a pretty good idea of what the community has told us,” he said. “The Council gives us direction on which goals and actions they want us to do. We know we can’t do everything.”

Key Biscayne’s tax base increase was fueled by soaring home prices, according to the County Property appraiser. But steep as they are, the property value increases are actually less than the Miami-Dade County average of 10.2%. The final number will be issued July 1. 

However, many homeowners are shielded from large property tax increases by Florida’s Save Our Homes cap. For taxpayers who have a Homestead exemption, the increase is capped at  3%. 

That means the burden will be shifted to property owners who don’t qualify for those exemptions, such as non-citizens, people who rent their homes, and corporate owners. The Save Our Homes provision was added to the Florida Constitution by voters in 1994. 

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The final tax rate is also likely to be lower if history is any guide. State law requires municipalities to mail out notices each August to taxpayers with the maximum amount taxes could rise. Because of this “trim notice” requirement,  governments often “aim high” and then work to reduce the tax rate before the final budget is adopted in September. 

Mayor Mike Davey said tonight’s workshop is just the start of the budget process. “It’s time to listen, get ideas, and move forward.” 

In a presentation for Council, the administration noted that the inflation rate in South Florida is 9.8%, a full percentage point higher than the 8.8% rise in the island’s tax base. Although union contracts with Village employees limit raises to 4%, several contractors are requesting double-digit increases.

Capital Spending 

The budget calls for $15.9 million in capital projects. The project list includes $2.7 million for reconstructed traffic circles and a repaving of Harbor Drive, $2 million for designing a stormwater basin near the K-8 Center, $1.5 million to fund the Village’s portion of a required Army Corps of Engineers study, and initial work on expanding the Community Center and replacing its roof. 

Among the other expenditures: $225,000 for a Village-wide security camera system, $240,000 for five new police cars, milling and repaving of West Mashta at a cost of $538,000, and $677,000 to improve Crandon Boulevard. The Village recently lost some state funding for Crandon when Gov. Ron DeSantis used his line-item veto power to ax hundreds of spending items in the state budget. 

For the first time, the spending plan calls for issuance of a general obligation bond of about $2.3 million to fund some of the resiliency projects. Voters granted the Council approval to issue bonds in a 2020 referendum. Williamson said, however, that he expects the first Council vote on bond borrowing to wait until the Village can identify at least $5 million of spending. The Village’s environmental engineering firm, selected earlier this year, is preparing that estimate.

Another $2.8 million would be borrowed from a state revolving fund. About $1.9 million is forecast to come from the general fund. The Village is also applying $2.8 million from federal recovery funds to the capital budget. 

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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...