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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)

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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. 

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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. 

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Capital Projects

Formulate and Promote Resilient Infrastructure & Adaptation Program1,580,194
Renourish Beach and Dunes1,868,050
Beach and Dune Monitoring100,000
Design Zone 1 K-8) Resilient Infrastructure & Adaptation Program5,078,606
Renovate Fire Station’s Women’s Locker Room118,000
Perform Immediate Flood Control & Mitigation Areas A, B, C, & E1,100,000
Perform Immediate Flood Control & Mitigation Area D3,052,520
Reconstruct Harbor and Fernwood Traffic Circle750,000
Improve Crandon Boulevard480,000
Conduct USACE Back Bay and Beach Feasibility Study750,000
Install Village Wide Security and Surveillance System248,000
Replace Basketball Systems in Community Center40,000
Replace Lighting at St. Agnes Field273,900
Procure Telehandler130,000
Test Stormwater Water Quality Improvement Technologies134,578
Replace Key Biscayne Fire Rescue Vehicle #1600,000
Replace Key Biscayne Fire Rescue Vehicle #2600,000
Replace Village Fleet Vehicles355,000
Develop Feasibility Study for Offshore Submerged Barrier800,000
Construct Beach Access at Commodore Club South100,000
Repair Community Center Roof45,000
Extend Sewer Lines from Sewer Main150,000
Improve Beach Park Phase 1825,000
Rehab Public Art140,000
Replace Under 5 Playground Equipment200,000
Install Stormwater Pump Station Back-up Generators190,790
Improve Building Department Customer Service areas375,000
Update Village Civic Center Wayfinding and Signage50,000
Improve Key Biscayne K-8 Center School Outdoor Athletic Facilities75,000
Assess Green ROW Infrastructure Solutions650,000
Procure Fire Department High Water Vehicle95,000
TOTAL 20,954,638
Source – Village of Key Biscayne
Editor-in-Chief

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...