Council works on town budget, will review staff pay raises

Government By David L. Snelling, Reporter Thursday, September 16, 2021

    The Miami Lakes town council approved the proposed 2021 – 2022 budget during a first reading on Sept. 7.  The proposed millage rate of 2.3127, or $2.31 per $1,000 of assessed property, is unchanged since 2019.

     But because home values have risen by 3.6 percent according to the Miami-Dade County Property Appraiser’s Office,  some homeowners may pay slightly more than in prior years.

     A homeowner whose property is valued at $350,000, less a $50,000 homestead exemption, would pay $693.81 to Miami Lakes, the town said.

     Property taxes will generate $8.3 million in ad valorem revenue; the General Fund operating budget is $19 million. 

     If the budget passes during second reading at the budget hearing to be held on Sept. 22, it will pay for infrastructure improvements such as street paving, sidewalk and drainage repairs and a new town website. 

     Councilman Carlos O. Alvarez was absent.  Councilwoman Marilyn Ruano was the lone ‘no’ vote on the budget ordinance.

     Ruano said after the meeting that the draft spending plan contained “many unnecessary expenditures.” 

     They include a 3 percent increase to the FPL franchise fee, which is currently at 3 percent, she said.

     “This is a 100 percent increase to our current fee of 3 percent,” Ruano said. “I cannot support that tax increase in a budget ...”

     The utility collects the fee from customers and then pays it to the town.  The council tabled the proposed increase to the FPL franchise fee until its Sept. 14 regular town meeting. 

     In the proposed budget, revenues above the 3% FPL franchise fees already collected would be used for town infrastructure projects such as street repairs, sidewalk repairs, enhanced lighting, tree planting and trimming, Town Manager Edward Pidermann said after the meeting.

     The council also deferred to Sept. 22 a decision about bonuses and paying a 2.8 percent cost of living adjustment (COLA), to the town’s employees that would cost $124,663. 

     Pidermann had also allocated $45,788 for bonuses of up to 3 percent for some employees, based on staff evaluations.

     Councilmembers asked for a review of salaries compared to other municipalities and wanted to know whether staff are leaving for higher paying jobs.

     Mayor Manny Cid said he wants to eliminate COLA increases and would rather see bonuses paid to “high performers.”

     Cid said the cost of COLAs will strain future town budgets.

     Pidermann said COLAs allow employees to keep up with inflation and the marketplace and to build a pension.

     Keeping an employee at the same salary for 20 years would be “completely unreasonable,” Pidermann said, especially since bonuses are not guaranteed each year and are not part of a pension calculation.

     An amendment to the budget by Councilman Tony Fernandez that would provide a tax rebate for low-income, elderly residents passed unanimously. 

     The amount was still being calculated by staff, Pidermann said.

 

 

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