Miami-Dade leaders eye tax cuts
By Ashley Hopkins
On the heels of Mayor Carlos Gimenez's 2012 State of the County address, commission chair Joe Martinez is promising to bring to the board a discussion of how to best restore services, reduce the tax rate and offer tax relief to property owners over the next year.
In Mr. Gimenez's 2012 State of the County address, he listed priorities for the upcoming budget year, in which he expressed a desire to preserve critical programs and essential services without raising taxes.
When Mr. Gimenez developed his budget last year, it was meant to stand as a two-year plan for financial growth — holding that current property tax rates and fee levels would carry the county through the upcoming fiscal year.
According to Mr. Gimenez's address, the fiscal 2011-2012 budget reduced the combined tax rate from 11.0498 to 9.7405 mils — reducing property taxes more than $200 million. When combined with the elimination of 1,000 county jobs, Miami-Dade saved more than $1 billion.
While Mr. Gimenez's 2011-2012 reorganization plan reduced departments from 42 to 26, this year he plans to cut from departments even further.
In his address, he announced plans to trim 527 posts, bringing overall employee count from 26,505 to 25,978 and saving $34.65 million over the next year — $10.15 million in the county's general fund.
"We are transforming Miami-Dade County from a complicated and often functionally redundant organization that our customers found difficult to utilize, into one that delivers services more efficiently and effectively and acts as a catalyst for economic development and job creation, not a roadblock to it," Mr. Gimenez said in a formal statement.
This month Mr. Martinez — who is challenging Mr. Gimenez in the fall election — responded to the mayor's address and said he planned to bring to the commission proposals as to how to best restore services, reduce the tax rate and offer tax relief to property owners.
"If these savings are real and tangible, and if the upcoming tax roll project shows an upward spike in ad valorem revenues, this board, as the policymaking body, must decide the best manner in which to allocate these funds," he said in a formal statement. "That decision may entail the restoration of services, further reduction of the millage, and/or mitigating the impact of the 4% contribution to health care imposed on our employees by the commission this past January.
"At the appropriate time I will bring before the board a proposal as to how to best balance this three-prong approach of enhancing services, address the fiscal hardships on our workforce and seeking additional tax relief to property owners."
While the commission won't move to set a millage cap until July, an official with Mr. Martinez's office said that the chairman has begun to mull over what could be done to make ends meet without impacting residents.
"In the case of our workforce, let us not ignore that what began as an austerity measure has morphed into severe hardship for those who serve this community day in and day out," he said. "We must not forget that the majority of them are our neighbors and contribute significantly to the economic vibrancy of our community."
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