MIAMI (CBS4)- Miami-Dade County commissioners held the first of two public hearings on Thursday to get input about the budget.

A year ago, Miami-Dade County Commissioners made a move that triggered a historic reshuffling of county government leadership; county leaders approved a controversial budget that raised the property-tax rate while hiking workers’ salaries.

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On Thursday night, the county board is set to revisit that decision as they take up the budget for the coming year.  Dozens of citizens, non-profit organizations and union members turned out to protest against budget cuts.

Ken Attard has worked as a Miami-Dade Fire Apparatuses Mechanic and he is angry about what this budget will do to his pocketbook.

“We’re paying ridiculous amounts of premiums when it comes to health insurance. It’s not a benefit and the public things that we’re getting some great deal,” Attard said. “My insurance is 12-hundred dollars a month to insure myself and four children.”

Last year’s tax-rate increase is set to be eliminated and the employee pay hikes wiped away.

In July, County Commissioners committed themselves to reducing the property tax-rate by 11.8 percent. On Thursday, they will face constituents ranging from employee unions to nonprofit groups at the first of two public hearings before voting on the county’s budget that will take effect on Oct. 1.

More than a hundred people filled out speaker cards and many spoke as the meeting ran well past 10pm.

Mayor Carlos Gimenez said he will make cuts where ever necessary to balance the budget and keep his promise to voters.

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“I justify it because that’s a promise I made. I told the people of Miami-Dade County that I was going to roll back the taxes,” Gimenez said, “I told them that I voted against every single union contract that increases the expenses to Miami-Dade.”

Mayor Carlos Gimenez’s proposed budget calls for closing a $400 million gap by eliminating some 1,200 county jobs, including 500 that are vacant, and squeezing some $239 million in concessions from unions that so far haven’t agreed to the cuts.

Gimenez has said he will have no alternative but to begin widespread layoffs Nov. 1 if labor unions haven’t signed concessionary contracts needed to balance the budget.

The budget proposal also seeks cost savings through service reductions, ranging from cutting the executive office budget by 20 percent and reining in commissioners’ discretionary spending of taxpayer dollars to slicing county government funding for nonprofit groups.

Under Gimenez’s plan, organizations serving children, the elderly and providing food will get funded at the same level as a year ago, but all others are cut by 50 percent. Some groups have complained that they serve children and seniors, but still are facing 50 percent cuts.

Gimenez, who took office July 1 following a special election to fill the vacancy created by the recall of Carlos Alvarez, held a series of town hall meetings with residents across Greater Miami in a bid to explain his plan for cutting the size of the sprawling county government. He recently unveiled a plan to reduce the number of county departments to 25 from 42.

After Thursday’s public hearing wraps up, county commissioners will vote on setting the various property tax rates for the county, including a countywide rate, unincorporated county rate, and the debt, library and fire district rates. The commission will vote again after a second public hearing Sept. 22.

The commission already agreed in July to lower the property tax rate to 2009-2010 levels. Under Florida law, the panel cannot raise the rate above the one it announced in July without sending out new proposed property tax notices to residents — a highly unlikely scenario.

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