The Village Council on Tuesday voted to stay the course — for now — on a possible double-digit property tax increase this fall, but promised to make budget reductions at budget hearings in September. The move came on the same night it voted to spend $625,000 on the next phase of resilience projects contracts.
“Our goal is to bring this number down, I would say dramatically,” said Mayor Mike Davey.
As it stands now, Manager Steve Williamson’s draft $39 million budget would increase property taxes an average of 13%. Of that 13%, some 10.1% comes from an increase in the island’s tax base. The remaining 2.8% comes from an increase in the tax rate, or “millage” that is set by the Council in September.
Residents with Homestead exemptions would see only a 3% increase because of a cap in the Florida constitution, but that limit does not apply to renters and commercial property owners.
Council Member Ignacio Segurola tried, in vain, to get the Council to commit to a smaller increase.
“We’re basically already in a recession,” he said, saying the least the Council could do was to raise taxes no more than the increase automatically caused by rising property values, which are up 10% from a year ago.
“We should show some fiscal responsibility and some discipline,” he said, noting that other municipalities in the county had taken similar steps. The county property appraiser has suggested a 3% reduction, and Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava included a 1% reduction coupled with programs for renters.
But no one seconded Segurola’s request.
Instead, the council, voting 5-1, approved sending out the legally required notice with a millage rate of 3.288 — and a promise to make cuts before the final vote in September. Last year’s millage rate was 3.199. The notice is mailed to each property owner in August and contains a listing of county, village, school and other taxes and fees. The notice is preliminary, and most municipalities start the budget process with higher rates and work downwards.
Segurola cast the lone no vote. Council Member Ed London had left the meeting at the time of the vote.
Williamson said the staff is already looking at various trimming options before budget hearings Sept. 6 and 21st.
“One of them may be capital heavy, one might be maintenance-and-repair heavy, one might be a hybrid, and one might be looking at potential additional revenues in some way,” Williamson said.
“I owe that to you.”
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.