Town Council adopts lower rate for property taxes

Thursday, October 4, 2018 0 Comments


The Miami Lakes Town Council officially adopted a lower rate for property taxes and eliminated any confusion over a proposal to borrow money to compete the master plan for Miami Lakes Optimist Park during the second and final budget hearing on September 18.

The new rate of 2.3217 mills generates $7 million in ad valorem taxes and additional revenues brought the town’s general fund operating expenses to $17.7 million for the 2018-2019 fiscal year. 

The town’s estimated $50 million budget includes reserves for emergencies, carryover money for capital improvement projects and money never spent during the last fiscal year, FEMA reimbursement for Hurricane Irma and a budget surplus.

But a $2.6 million proposal for a short term loan for Miami Lakes Optimist Park sparked residents to flock to Town Hall for the final budget hearing and reject the idea of borrowing money, though they support the much-needed improvements at the town’s oldest recreation facility.  

“We still have this building to pay for,” said Claudia Lucas, referring to the loan to build the government center. “My concern is going into further debt. When you move forward, please consider the tax payers. We need to live within our means.”

Esther Colon, a candidate for the Town Council, asked lawmakers to remove the $2.6 million from the budget, and look for other resources to renovate the park.

“I sent your parks director pictures of the dug out in field 5,” she said. “We have the money this year to fix them. It’s a safety issue.”

Rey said the town is not budgeting $2.6 million for the short term loan.

He said he placed an estimated figure for how much it would cost to complete the park’s master plan, whether the town decides to borrow the money through a referendum, tap in the budget’s reserves or other revenues including cell tower fees.

Miami Lakes allocated $2 million for the park this fiscal year.

“It’s a mechanism to decide what to do later on,” he said.

But Vice Mayor Frank Mingo said the budget amount caused some confusion since residents believe Miami Lakes was proceeding with a mail-in ballot election to determine if they want to borrow the money.  

“We eliminate the line item and let the future council decide the way to put in the budget,” said Mingo, who’s vacating his seat to run for state representative.

Councilmember Ceasar Mestre said the budget amount might give new council members the impression the money is spent.

“There’s no asterisk next to it and the new folks come here thinking it’s done,” said Mestre, who’s term-limited this year. “We take it out and allow the new council to decide what to do.”

Mayor Manny Cid said the amount shouldn’t cause a problem since the residents, if the town decides to borrow the money, would have the final say.

“It’s not a done deal,” he said. “It’s just a discussion.”

Cid said renovating the park is badly needed since residents are taking their kids to parks in Pembroke Pines, Doral, Weston and Davie.

He said in 2013, the town was at its lowest point when the former mayor was arrested on bribery and kickback charges but later acquitted.

To regain the public’s trust, Miami Lakes conducted a survey and 308 residents responded to the top four priorities in the town.

“Parks was No. 2,” Cid said. “I believe in parks and thanks to parks, I’m here today. Everyday while growing up, I played at the park.” 

Councilmember Tim Daubert, who’s been advocating for the park’s improvements since he took office eight years ago, said he’s in a conundrum.

“Everyone knows how bad I want to get the park done but I hate borrowing money,” said Daubert, who’s also term-limited. “I didn’t vote for the bond issue for the government center. We got to get the park done because it’s killing me.”

The town earmarked $2 million for the park this year, but has a $4.5 million price tag for new basketball and tennis courts, an airnasium, walking and bike trails and replacing the park’s lighting system.

Council members instructed Rey to make several changes at the first budget hearing in addition to lowering the property rate for taxes.

Rey and his staff restored $59,824 taken from $130,000 for enhanced police presence at Bob Graham Education Center and Miami Lakes K-8 Center.

The program was initially funded by Miami-Dade County Public Schools ($70,176) and a transfer from Dunnwoody developer’s contribution for education purposes to supplement the cost of police security.

However, at the first budget hearing, town staff was directed to reverse the $59,824 and restore the developer’s contribution to the full funding of $300,000, which is earmarked for educational purposes, improvements to impacted schools in the town and youth education programs.

Another change made from the first budget hearing was finding money in the budget to give town staff a 2.3 percent Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA).

The budget amount also includes a projection of revenues estimated at $4.8 million from building permits for the new Senior Village and Assisting Living Facility; Lennar townhouses; Bob Graham/Elevate/Crescent; and N.W. 57-59 avenues development and $2.5 million in carryover funds from 2017-2018.

The police budget increased five percent, as the town budgeted $8.7 million for public safety services, which is 49 percent of the spending plan for next year.

For other capital improvement projects, Miami Lakes is projected to spend $3.8 million for stormwater drainage improvements including $1.9 million for the third part of roads in West Lake (N.W. 148 Terrace/N.W. 148 Street/NW 149 Terrace); $1 million for phase one of the Royal Oaks roadway and drainage project; and $837,000 for the second portion of the town’s canal bank stabilization.

For transportation capital improvements, the town allocated $5 million for projects that include $2.3 million for N.W. 59 Avenue extension and boat storage yard; $1.1 million for Miami Lakes Business Park East (N.W. 60 Avenue); $685,000 for a safe routes to school project; and $441,747 for a project to widen the Palmetto Expressway and Ludlam Road intersection.

For public safety impact fees, Miami Lakes budgeted $430,597 for the town’s license plate recognition software, and a mobile speed radar. The license plate recognition software could help police track down vehicles that are suspected in a crime.

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