Message from the Mayor
My fellow Miamians,
I am pleased to present to you my FY 2017-18 Proposed Budget and Multi-year Capital Plan. As I wrote to you in my budget address earlier this year, to be a truly resilient community – one prepared to withstand natural and fiscal challenges metropolitan areas around our country are facing today – we must continue to provide services that our community values in a way that our residents and taxpayers can afford. The guiding principles I have used in the six years I have served as County Mayor have been transparency, efficiency, and fiscal responsibility. The budget plan I am submitting to you, and the document that outlines the plan, demonstrates my commitment to you and to future generations of Miamians.
My goals have not changed. Miami-Dade County should be a safe community with accessible and affordable housing, cost-effective modes of transportation, expanding job opportunities, enjoyable recreational and cultural opportunities, and a strong infrastructure to support these efforts. We should protect our most vulnerable residents – especially children and the elderly – and provide the services they need to prosper. Our airports and seaports should be ready to attract tourists and business to our community. We must plan for the future and enforce rules that protect our environment, ensure the safety of our structures and reduce our vulnerabilities to the effects of sea-level rise and climate change.
We have, in fact, become more persistent, determined to lead not only our community but, as a member of the Rockefeller 100 Resilient Cities global network, help create a framework for the world to be able to protect our resources and develop plans to mitigate risks from natural and other shocks to our systems. It is not an exaggeration to say that everything we do as a government is part of our strategy to enhance Miami-Dade County’s position as a safe, strong, attractive, enjoyable, innovative, nurturing, exciting place to live and work.
Preparing the FY 2017-18 Proposed Budget has been challenging. Unfortunately, due to legislative and policy actions at the federal and state levels, funding will be cut for local programs and services. The impacts of the Zika virus, the strong dollar, and other economic challenges have led to lower collections of tourist taxes, sales taxes, gas taxes and other revenues driven by spending in the community, which has limited available resources in the current fiscal year and next. Mosquito control costs, fully staffing the new Pet Adoption and Care Center, and the resulting impacts of the return of employee concessions will increase our spending. Higher medical and insurance costs also have to be funded. But because we have been so diligent in ensuring that our budget and financial forecasts have been conservative and eliminated the use of one-time revenue to support on-going operations, we are able to mitigate the impact of these challenges on our service delivery to a great extent and keep operating millage rates at the same levels as FY 2016-17.
In the coming year, we will increase the number of police officers in our community and add two units in our Fire Rescue Department. Our Youth and Community Safety Initiative to provide services and opportunities to at-risk youth and their families has been successfully implemented and will be fully funded. More than $225 million of funding for existing and new affordable housing projects is included in the Proposed Budget. My Employ Miami-Dade effort and the summer youth internship programs, along with the Mom and Pop grants to support small businesses are all funded at current levels. Planning and development studies for the SMART plan are fully funded. Miami International Airport and the Port of Miami combined expect to receive 7.19 million tons of cargo and greet 54.5 million passengers combined.
Libraries will be open more hours, have more funding for materials, and expand the afterschool tutoring programs. Park maintenance cycles will be curtailed marginally, but parks programming and hours will remain at current levels, including the innovative and successful Fit2Lead and Fit2Play programs. Funding for community-based organizations has been set at the amount needed to fund all existing organizations, as well as the discretionary funding allocated to each Commissioner this year. Funding for environmental grants will remain at current year levels.
In order to keep our core solid waste management services in place, I am recommending a $19 increase in the residential household annual fee. And to ensure that all customers are paying the appropriate amount for our water and sewer infrastructure, I am recommending an adjustment to the rate tiers; there will be no increase in water and sewer rates, though. I am also recommending an adjustment to make the surcharge for all planning and zoning fees 7.5 percent across the board, rather than variable depending upon the service. Finally, because our residents should never pay more than is necessary for the service they receive, I am recommending a two percent reduction to the Utility Service Fee, to six percent from eight percent. This fee, applied to all water and sewer bills countywide, will generate enough revenue to continue support for landfill mitigation projects performed by the Department of Solid Waste Management, as well as environmental remediation activities in the Regulatory and Economic Resources, Environmental Resources Management Division, along with remediation of soil contamination at nine parks in the county.
As staff prepared this Proposed Budget, I insisted they be mindful of the potential increase to the homestead exemption that will come before Florida voters in 2018. Likely to pass, this constitutional amendment will reduce funding for our four taxing jurisdictions by more than $50 million. I have asked that a reserve be funded in each taxing jurisdiction equivalent to the amount of funding that will be lost. These reserves are fully funded this year in the Library and Fire Rescue taxing districts and $7 million is set aside as a first contribution to the reserve for the General Fund. I have directed that vacant positions remain frozen – with the exception of public safety positions and those that generate revenue – not only to save money now, but also to avoid layoffs later. I will not recommend an increase to the millage rates; therefore, adjustments will need to be made to budget within our means should the homestead exemption be increased. As reflected in our five-year financial forecast, due to the flagging economy and the projected increase in the homestead exemption, we are not balanced at the current service levels in the General Fund and the Fire Rescue District beginning in FY 2019-20 and will need to make service reductions or identify other ways to reduce costs. To be responsible stewards of the public’s money, as well as the management of our government, those decisions will need to be made sooner rather than later.
I am proud of the FY 2017-18 Proposed Budget and my staff who worked diligently to put it together, throughout the County. They are dedicated, passionate public employees who care deeply about their government and their community. I thank them for all they have accomplished with limited resources. Of course there will be adjustments and the budget ultimately adopted by the Board of County Commissioners will be different to some extent. I look forward to spending the next two months working with the Board and with the community to make sure we meet everyone’s expectations to the greatest extent possible. My administration and I will continue working to ensure that Miami-Dade County remains on a path toward future financial sustainability and overall resiliency for all 2.7 million of us who call Miami-Dade County “home.”
Carlos A. Gimenez