Village Manager Steve Williamson released a revised $41.5 million Key Biscayne budget heavy on capital projects Wednesday, but that significantly trims an earlier tax proposal. Still, because of soaring property values, the spending plan would raise taxes an average 9.9%.
“We were able to hit it from both the revenue and the expense side,” Williamson said, who praised Chief Financial Officer Benjamin Nussbaum for sharpening the pencil. “The Village of Key Biscayne continues to hold the distinction of having the lowest overlapping millage rate of any municipality in Miami-Dade County,” the budget summary noted.
The first of two budget hearings is set for Sept. 12.
Homeowners who get a Florida Homestead exemption would pay much less, because the increase in taxable value of their homes is capped at 3% under the state constitution, shifting the tax burden to renters and commercial properties.
The spending plan would increase the number of full-time employees by two, to 140.
The budget spells out $21 million in capital spending over 31 different projects, with about half devoted to storm water and resiliency initiatives. The rest of the proposed capital spending covers everything from new fire and police vehicles to village-wide security cameras to playground equipment. (A list is below)
Only $2.7 million of the projects on the list are funded from the general fund budget, so the impact on the property tax rate is limited. The capital program relies on a combination of grants ($6.9 million), funding from prior years ($4.6 million), borrowing ($4 million), and other sources.
There was limited reaction from members of the Village Council.
Ed London, a spending hawk, said he planned on meeting with department heads before forming an opinion about Williamson’s budget. Mayor Joe Rasco said he was looking forward to a tax rate reduction before the budget was announced. Vice-Mayor Frank Caplan was traveling and declined comment. Messages left for other council members were not returned.
At last week’s Council meeting, however, there was criticism from Ignacio Segurola, a former council member, who said Williamson was behind schedule in proposing a detailed document.
“All we have are Power Points, we do not have line items,” he said. “That is completely unacceptable.”
The revised spending plan envisions a 15% increase in storm water fees needed to launch the first phase of replumbing the island. The fee measure was pulled from a vote last month when some council members had misgivings about the overall $310 million estimate to combat sea level rise over the next 15 years. The first phase is focused on the often-flooded area near the K-8 Center public school.
Unlike property taxes, the storm water fees do not take into account a property’s Homestead status. The fee is based on a recently-revised formula designed to better match the cost of removing flood water with a property’s contribution to flooding.
The 2024 budget calls for a 12.3% spending increase, but only calls for a property tax rate of 3.160, nearly identical to the current rate of 3.153 per $100,000 of taxable value. Nussbaum said the strength of the economy helped boost other kinds of revenue, such as sales taxes and increased use of the Community Center, which had plunged during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The downward revision may create an opportunity for Village Council members to add back some “wish list” items that are not currently included. Williamson said he is preparing a set of options for Council members.
“We’ll do the same thing, we are putting those slides together for next week,” he said. The optional items include astroturf for the St. Agnes playing field and a pilot project to professionally manage athletic programs, as well as park and roadway improvements.
One potential unknown is the cost of new labor agreements covering unionized village employees. The budget projects an 8.7% increase for police and fire wages, but the budget also includes a 20% increase in police overtime.
The Village reached a tentative agreement with civilian workers, but it has not been ratified, a union official said Wednesday. Negotiators for Fire-Rescue Department workers have proposed higher increases than the Village has offered and talks for new contracts continue.
|Formulate and Promote Resilient Infrastructure & Adaptation Program
|Renourish Beach and Dunes
|Beach and Dune Monitoring
|Design Zone 1 K-8) Resilient Infrastructure & Adaptation Program
|Renovate Fire Station’s Women’s Locker Room
|Perform Immediate Flood Control & Mitigation Areas A, B, C, & E
|Perform Immediate Flood Control & Mitigation Area D
|Reconstruct Harbor and Fernwood Traffic Circle
|Improve Crandon Boulevard
|Conduct USACE Back Bay and Beach Feasibility Study
|Install Village Wide Security and Surveillance System
|Replace Basketball Systems in Community Center
|Replace Lighting at St. Agnes Field
|Test Stormwater Water Quality Improvement Technologies
|Replace Key Biscayne Fire Rescue Vehicle #1
|Replace Key Biscayne Fire Rescue Vehicle #2
|Replace Village Fleet Vehicles
|Develop Feasibility Study for Offshore Submerged Barrier
|Construct Beach Access at Commodore Club South
|Repair Community Center Roof
|Extend Sewer Lines from Sewer Main
|Improve Beach Park Phase 1
|Rehab Public Art
|Replace Under 5 Playground Equipment
|Install Stormwater Pump Station Back-up Generators
|Improve Building Department Customer Service areas
|Update Village Civic Center Wayfinding and Signage
|Improve Key Biscayne K-8 Center School Outdoor Athletic Facilities
|Assess Green ROW Infrastructure Solutions
|Procure Fire Department High Water Vehicle
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.