Village Manager Steve Williamson’s $37 million dollar budget goes for a final vote Wednesday, with only one significant change — the addition of a special needs program at the Key Biscayne’s Community Center.
The spending plan calls for a property tax increase of 8.7% for non-Homesteaded properties. But residents with Homestead exemptions would see taxes go up only 3%. The addition of the special needs programming, a $50,000 item, is being offset with some reductions in other budget lines, so there is no net change to the version of the budget that was passed on first reading, Sept. 6.
The millage rate is decreasing from the present 3.199 to 3.1620, currently the lowest of of Miami-Dade’s 35 municipalities. Still, the vote could be close, with proponents of lower taxes saying they would oppose the final spending plan without additional reductions.
About 74% of Key Biscayne’s income comes through the property tax, and 93% of properties are residential. Of that group, just 32% of property owners benefit from the Homestead exemption.
Council Member Ed London, appearing on the Anti-Social radio program, did not offer any specific line-item reductions, but predicted that there would be a $1 million surplus that should be redirected back to taxpayers.
“I’ve been banging my head against the wall for the last four years,” London said of government expenditures. “It’s wasteful, it’s inefficient.”
Village Chief Financial Officer Benjamin Nussbaum disagreed with London, saying there is no surplus. “We are not looking to utilize the reserves to artificially lower the millage rate,” Nussbaum said.
London did not identify any specific reductions in advance of Wednesday’s meeting, and Village Clerk Jocelyn Koch said her office had not received any budget amendments from council members as of noon Monday. At the last budget session Sept. 6, the council stripped $150,000 in design costs for an expanded Community Center.
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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.