MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Miami-Dade County government may be about to undergo another round of austerity after county commissioners approved by a vote of 8-4 a budget for the new year which does not include an increase in property taxes.
Originally Mayor Carlos Gimenez had proposed a 5.37 percent property tax rate, which would have also fully-funded a $19 million plan to turn the county’s animal shelter into a no-kill shelter. But, the pushback from commissioners and some in the public was swift and Gimenez changed his mind.
Before the commission cast their vote on Tuesday, Gimenez recommended keeping most of the property tax rate flat and no new taxes.
“It is clear there is no public support for a tax rate increase right now,” Gimenez told the commission.
When asked if he was an ‘unapologetic flip flopper’ when it came to his stance, the mayor said the people determined his stance.
“I’m unapologetic for listening to the wishes of the people of Miami-Dade County, absolutely I will always do that,” said Gimenez.
The last time a tax increase went through it ended up costing then-Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Alvarez his job because the tax increase primarily funded the boondoggle that is Marlins Park.
Gimenez proposed closing a $50 million shortfall by closing more than 20 library locations and eliminating 250 library workers. The county’s fire rescue service would also take a major hit: 149 fire recue workers would be laid off and six fire units would be taken out of service.
Before the vote a representative from the county’s fire fighters union warned the commission that the flat rate would put lives at risk.
“Imagine the mother of a child that is not breathing, imagine that mother having to wait an extra five minutes because we took the rescue out of service that normally responds to her house,” said Rowan Taylor with the International Association of Firefighters.
There was also a huge outcry from those who supported the plan to make the county’s shelters no-kill facilities. Under the mayor’s recommendation, a proposed $19 million in funding to advance a no-kill policy would be cut by 75 percent. The slashing of proposed funds comes despite voters approving a tax increase for this purpose last November in a straw poll.
“A society of decency would worry about the 17 thousand plus cats and dogs killed every year. Killed, not euthanized, killed every year,” said no-kill advocate David Lawrence.
Ron Magill, from Zoo Miami, addressed the commission as a voter.
“We believe in this, we are will to pay for it,” said Magill.
But the mayor and commission appeared to be unwilling to raise taxes for anything.
Half of the Miami-Dade County Commission is facing re-election next year and a vote to increase any types of taxes could cost them their office.
While the vote set the tax rate which cannot be changed, the commission could juggle various cuts between now and October 1st when the budget must be finalized.