- Sponsored -
Share article

Less security at the Village Green and Beach Park. Fewer improvements for Harbor Drive. Fewer community programs and events.

Those are just some of the cuts that would occur if the Council decides to choose a budget proposal lowering the tax rate to 3.0 mills, a number that would require eliminating $1.5 million in spending, officials said.  

Mayor Joe Rasco asked Village Manager Steve Williamson at the Sept. 12 budget meeting to prepare three tax rate proposals to see if a proposed 9.9% property tax increase could be lowered.

Importantly, neither Rasco nor any other council member linked the potential millage rate reduction to any specific spending cuts. Instead, they passed that buck to Williamson, asking the administration to come up with program cuts. 

Cutting $1.5 million on the budget might save the wealthiest residents a few hundred dollars in property taxes but would have a big impact on services that they have demanded.

The three tax scenarios – shared with the Independent on Monday – gives the Council a Goldilocks choice for the 2023-2024 fiscal year. It remains to be seen which one they will find too soft, too hard or just right. 

All three proposals would raise taxes to slightly differing degrees. Taxes are going up regardless because island property values surged 9.7% from last year. 

- Sponsored -

Williamson said he will recommend the Council adopt the plan with the least cuts – $107,000 – when it meets on the budget next Tuesday.

The other two proposals offer cuts in spending of $570,000 and $1.5 million respectively – the latter championed by budget hawk Council Member Ed London. 

Williamson said Monday the $1.5 million in cuts “would definitely impact our ability to provide safety and security for the Village.”

Such cuts would “reduce the ability to prevent, detect and correct safety and security-related incidents at Beach Park, beach access pathways, and portions of Village Green,” according to the plans reviewed.

The $1.5 million in cuts would also mean the Village would reverse course on installing public security cameras which had been sought by many residents and earlier approved by the Council, Williamson said. It would impact training of law enforcement and limit improvements on Harbor Drive. Planned renovations at Beach Park would also take a hit, he said.

Another tax scenario  — with a 3.10 rate — would translate to $570,000 in cuts. That plan would also affect Beach Park and delay Harbor Drive improvements, among other things. 

The budget proposal Williamson will recommend — with a rate of 3.149 — uses some financial jujitsu, such as refining insurance costs, and cutting back on the program neutering feral cats to achieve its modest goal. 

What does the deepest rate cut mean for taxes? Surprisingly little when compared to Williamson’s budget that passed 6-1 on first reading.

On a per-capita basis, the deepest tax cut plan would only save $317 a year for the average sized household, according to the U.S. Census.

It’s even less impactful for Homesteaded homeowners. For a home worth $1 million last year,  the annual spread between the three scenarios is $153.

For about one-third of island homeowners, the Florida Constitution “Save Our Homes” provision caps the annual increase in home values to 3% – which means the only ones paying the full tab caused by the blistering-hot real estate market are commercial properties and landlords, who then pass those costs to tenants. 

The provision means that no matter which tax rate is adopted, the 2,730 Homesteaded owners would see greatly attenuated changes in the Key Biscayne portion of their property tax bill. 

Williamson said he has not directly heard from a single resident who wants him to cut spending but there is a Key Biscayne Neighbors Association meeting Tuesday night on the issue. Many of the nascent group’s members have complained that Village spending is too high. 

If the Council decides to adopt the $1.5 million in cuts – community-driven events like the Fourth of July parade or Lighthouse Run could feel the pinch, he said.

“Which is really grassroots community-driven programming that provides a great – in my opinion – impact on who we are, what we are culturally,” he said.

Invest in Local News for Your Town. Your Gift is tax-deductible

JOHN PACENTI is the executive editor of the Key Biscayne Independent. John has worked for The Associated Press, the Palm Beach Post, Daily Business Review, and WPTV-TV.


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.

- Sponsored -