MIAMI (CBS4) – An updated budget plan may save half a dozen Miami-Dade County libraries from being permanently padlocked, according to CBS4 news partner The Miami Herald.
Under a previous budget proposal, Mayor Carlos Gimenez supported closing 22 of the county’s 49 public libraries. Under the tentative change, Culmer, Lakes of the Meadows, Lemon City, Little River, Opa-locka and Shenandoah branch libraries would be spared.
The alternative plan was drafted by administrators after large public outcry to keep the facilities open.
Gimenez senior advisor Lisa Martinez said they will continue to look for savings.
The administration is looking for crafty ways to balance the budget after the mayor originally 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.
Five days later, he abandoned a property tax rate increase and 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 before they approved it.
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 the libraries and laying off 250 library workers. The county’s fire rescue service would also take a major hit: 149 fire rescue workers would be laid off and six fire units would be taken out of service.
Gimenez’s critics say despite frequently conducting opinion polls to gauge the popularity of his policies, he misread county commissioners’ will and lost touch with the public’s anti-tax sentiment.
“His behavior is erratic. It’s confusing, and it’s a disservice to this community,” labor union leader Fred Frost of the Miami Economic Sustainability Alliance told commissioners at the July 16 meeting, according to the paper. “We need to have calm, stable and effective leadership. We cannot be governed by a bumper sticker.”
Some on the commission, however, praised Gimenez for switching his position.
“I know it takes courage sometimes to rethink one’s position,” Commissioner Juan C. Zapata told the paper. “It will serve this community well.”
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.