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Miami Shores Village News – August 2009

More news from Miami Shores Vice Mayor Donald Shockey – nothing like getting the scoop directly from the source.  I will posting The Miami Shores Vice Mayor’s communications when I get them so we can all stay on top of what’s going on in Miami Shores.  One thing is for sure, Miami Shores has a lot of new challenges and is going through a lot of changes – if you want your voice to be heard, you need to get involved, don’t just sit back and complain.

Dear friends,

It has been a while since I sent the last email update, and I hope all of you are managing to deal as well as possible with our oppressive summer heat and with the continued economic challenges so many of us are facing.   Most of the items that the Village Council has dealt with over the summer to date have been procedural matters.   In early July, the Village Council began working on the FY 2010 budget, and the task of developing and approving this year’s budget promises to be the most difficult in many years.  Please find below a short version of this update on the budget and several other items.  Following the short update, more detailed information on the budget is provided for those who are interested.  I am always open to hearing from you via email or in person on matters that you would like to discuss.

I look forward to hearing from you or seeing you at a meeting soon.

Donald Shockey,
Vice Mayor, Miami Shores Village

MIAMI SHORES VILLAGE COUNCIL UPDATE

Miami Shores Village Council:  The Council will be in recess during the month of August so the next Council meeting will be the Budget Hearing currently scheduled for September 8th.

Miami Shores Village Budget:  The Council approved a draft budget on July 21st, and set Public Hearings on the budget for September 8th and 22nd.   The Village, like almost every city and government entity in the country, faces the difficult challenge of cutting some services this year due to the 14.3% decline in property tax revenue to the Village.  I supported a compromise 5% millage increase to offset dramatically decreased revenues and to retain to some extent the ability to maintain the high standards and services which the Village is known for.   Even if this rate is approved, total tax bills for the majority of residents will be lower this year than last due to declining property values.

September 8th Budget Hearing: As required by law, the Council has approved a draft budget and set a Budget Hearing for September 8th at 7:00 p.m.   View the budget at: www.miamishoresvillage.com/Budget%20documents/proposed%20budget%202009-2010.pdf  The Council retains the ability to reduce the proposed millage rate and to shift budget allocations at this meeting.     Input from residents can be received by Council Members prior to and at this meeting.  The budget process, as complicated and difficult as it is, includes essential and legally required public input, and no final decisions are made without it.  I urge anyone who would like to comment about the budget to do so by contacting your Council Members prior to September 8th or by attending and speaking at the September 8th Budget Hearing so that your concerns can be considered.

Tennis Program Budget: Among the proposed reductions in the budget is a large reduction in the tennis program allocation.   While the cuts are structured in a way to minimize the impact on the tennis program, I have nonetheless heard from many residents who feel that the program is being cut too much.   I support restoration of some of the tennis program funding and I will be meeting with the Village Manager to look at options in this regard.  Please remember that it will require the support of a majority of the Council Members to enact changes to the draft budget.

NE Second Avenue:  Only a few small touches remain to complete the project and a grand reopening is being planned for early fall.  The Council approved the installation along the Avenue of Barry University banners which will strengthen the connection between the University and the Village and enhance the stature of both.   New parking regulations are in effect.  From Mon. – Sat., park only on the east side from 7 to 9 a.m.   From 9 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., park on both sides of the street.  From 4 to 6 p.m., park only on the west side.   From 6 p.m. to 7 a.m., and all day Sunday, park on both sides of the street.    Please take advantage of the ample street parking and patronize our Miami Shores Village merchants to the greatest extent possible.

South Florida Urban Tree Canopy Coalition:   On July 30th from 8:30 a.m. to noon, I will attend a meeting at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden of officials and staff from various South Florida governments and agencies to develop a new regional partnership dedicated to increasing the limited tree canopy in South Florida.   Far from being a marginal issue, increasing our tree canopy is vital to improving our quality of life and cooling our hot urban environment.  If anyone would like more information on this important initiative, please let me know.

ADDITIONAL BUDGET INFORMATION

Developing the annual budget is an extremely complicated but important annual effort and I wanted to highlight some key elements of the budget and the budget process.

Budget Process and Public Input:  In the summer of each year, the Village Manager and administration assemble a huge document with extensive background information documenting current year revenues and expenses and projecting revenues and expenses for the upcoming year.  This year, for the second year in a row, the administration faced the difficult challenge of maintaining existing levels of city services while at the same time reducing the cost of providing those services.   Property tax revenue for the 2010 Budget has decreased by 14.3% which is approximately $1.5 million dollars.  The Village Manager met with each Council Member to discuss budget challenges and priorities and created a draft budget document.  On July 14th, the Village Council held a Budget Workshop at the Community Center at which the Council and Administration met with each Village Department Director to review the proposed budget.  The Workshop was advertised and open to the public but official public input on the budget is limited by public notice requirements to the two Public Hearings now scheduled for September 8th and 22nd.  A general consensus among the Council Members on the budget and the millage rate was developed at the workshop, and on July 21st the Village Council approved a proposed budget and rate and set the Public Hearings on the budget for September.   Depending on the input received by the Council before and at the first Public Hearing on September 8th, the Council retains the ability, if a majority of Council Members are so inclined, to shift allocations within the budget and to reduce, but not increase, the proposed millage rate.  Please be assured that, while a tentative budget and rate have been set by the Council as required by law, there remains ample opportunity to receive input from residents on the budget prior to and at the Budget Hearing on September 8th.

Proposed Budget, Millage Rate, and “Raising” Taxes: The 14.3% ($1.5 million dollar) decline in property tax revenue is a very large cut for a city the size of the Village to absorb.   As the Miami Herald story on the subject pointed out, many elements of the budget have been reduced somewhat, and significant cuts are proposed for the Police and Recreation Departments.

Almost all of us have suffered from declining property values over the last two years, and this will likely continue into next year.  Property tax rates are set based on the change of home values in the previous calendar year, so the bill you will receive in August is based on the assessed value of your property as of December 2008.   As a result, property tax bills for most of us will be substantially less this year.  We may welcome this news, but the accompanying impact on services provided by the Village cannot be ignored.  One response to declining revenues is to raise the tax rate, or millage rate, so that the overall reduction in revenues is lessened to some degree.

At the Village Council Budget Workshop on July 14th, the subject of raising the millage rate was brought up.  Two Council Members opposed any rate increase, while two other Council Members proposed raising the rate by 10%.  I supported a compromise increase in the millage rate of 5%.  As I noted above, this is the maximum that the rate can be increased when the Council officially approves the budget in September after hearing public input.  However, the Council retains the right to revise this rate downward, and to identify the additional services that may need to be cut to do so.

The current proposed millage rate increase of 5% means that the taxes on the average home would be $59 more than if the millage rate was left the same.  However, and this is extremely important to note, the total amount of property tax paid by almost all of us will still be substantially less than the amount from last year because of the decline in assessed value of most of our homes.  I believe the additional average per home tax amount of $59 dollars per year is well worth paying if it can help us prevent the loss of city services that are essential to maintaining the standards and character of Miami Shores Village.

While I believe that a commitment to not raising tax rates is a legitimate position to hold, it must be accompanied by a willingness to cut spending accordingly, and many residents oppose cutting programs that they perceive as particularly important.

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