Commissioners to take up Gimenez Miami-Dade County budget preparation proposal
By Lou Ortiz
A proposed ordinance aims to change the way Miami-Dade County prepares its budget, beginning with the mayor and the commission coming up with priorities that are taken into account in the fiscal plan.
The commission on Thursday is expected to take up the budget process changes proposed by Commissioner Carlos A. Gimenez.
Mr. Gimenez said the measure is "not meant to be confrontational" but would give commissioners "more input and control of the process."
The proposal is a revised version of one Mr. Gimenez had in September 2007, when he sought to have the commission auditor prepare a separate budget in addition to the one the mayor and his administration prepare.
It was a mammoth task the auditor's office was not prepared to do without additional staff. The proposal also came on the heels of Mayor Carlos Alvarez's call for $240 million in budget cuts, which some commissioners complained about.
The new proposal sets up the commission priorities and calls for more involvement by their auditor.
If approved, County Manager George Burgess would have until Jan. 31 — this year and annually — to provide the commission with the administration's top 20 recommendations for next fiscal year's budget.
The county manager's top budget proposals would be followed by similar priority recommendations by commission committees.
In April, the commission would agree on its 20 priorities based on the committee recommendations.
"This list shall guide the commission when adopting the budget," the proposed ordinance says.
Mr. Gimenez's proposal also calls for the commission's auditor to conduct an in-depth review and analysis of the mayor's budget and any proposed changes after its initial presentation to the commission.
The mayor's staff and the auditor, with commission priorities in hand, would come up with recommendations and changes to the proposed budget before and during public hearings — which begin in August — before the commission approves the fiscal plan.
"The commission auditor shall issue any final recommended written changes to the tentative budget and then present implementing amendments…to the county commission," the proposal says.
But the proposed ordinance adds that asking the auditor to present final budget changes to the commission "is not intended to be construed in any way as a limitation of the mayor's right to participate in the budget process."
"It's going to be a joint effort," Mr. Gimenez said. "The change memos will be in collaboration with the mayor and staff."
Changes to the budget process is an issue that Miami-Dade's Charter Review Task Force is expected to address before their final report on Jan. 29.
The 21-member task force is reviewing the county's charter, which it is required to do every five years.
The current panel is reviewing the charter for the first time since the county changed to the strong- mayor form of government in January 2006.
Task force member and attorney Robert Holland said the budget process is a matter that involves the balance of power between the legislative and executive branches of county government.
"Commissioners have few people to go through the budget," compared to the city manager and the administration staff, Mr. Holland said in an interview last month.
He added that one issue the task force would address is the question of whether the commission should have more "funded staff to oversee and come up with their own [budget] recommendations."