Miami set to adopt budget under rollback threat from Legislature
By Risa Polansky
Miami commissioners are to be asked today (9/27) to approve a city budget reflecting about $31 million in cuts — about $22 million less than state lawmakers say they'll be asking for Oct. 3, three days after municipal budgets are due to Miami-Dade County.
The state this summer required most cities to reduce their budgets 9% to ease residents' property tax burdens.
In what legislators have deemed a mistake, Miami appeared on a list of cities exempt from the steep cuts due to the financial crisis it faced until 2001.
Last week, House Speaker Marco Rubio and Senate President Ken Pruitt warned Miami officials by letter that "the City of Miami will no longer be afforded preferential treatment." The removal of Miami from the list of municipalities "of special financial concern" is part of a bill to be proposed at next month's legislative special session.
The legislators wrote that the letter's intent "is to give you advance notice of the change so that you can adjust your revenue and spending plans prior to their final approval in order to be consistent with the expected legislation."
But final approval is to come today, and "I don't know what the law is going to be. The law has not been drafted," city Chief Financial Officer Larry Spring said.
The budget as it stands is "following the letter of the law," he said.
Should a bill requiring the cuts be passed next month, Mr. Spring said he is unsure how the city could retroactively adjust its budget.
"We're still trying to work out the logistics," agreed Michael Boudreaux, director of the city's strategic planning, budgeting and performance office.
Should the city end up forced to make the cuts, they would probably come from police or parks, Mr. Spring said, the areas commissioners voted to beef up in the current budget.
Should the state require the rollback, Miami could sidestep it only by votes of four of the five commissioners.
Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones said she would consider approving the budget as is today and wait to see where the chips fall Oct. 3.
"I think the commission should have to take a hard stand on where do we go from here," she said.
Commissioner Marc Sarnoff said he is "under certain circumstances" prepared to approve a budget that doesn't reflect a 9% cut.
Commissioner Tomás Regalado said he would vote no on principal to a budget that doesn't reflect the steepest cuts.
Commissioners Angel Gonzalez and Joe Sanchez were unavailable.