First Budget Hearing: Taxes will Certainly Rise, by How Much?

The Commission held its first hearing on the 2009-2010 Budget Approval last night. Community comments were received by the Commission and there was a large community attendance. The meeting to set the final millage rate will be held on Tuesday, September 22 at 5pm. Also, the Commission agreed to have a workshop on Monday, September 21 at 5pm to review the final budget proposal with the City Manager, Mr. Pat Salerno. The community cannot make comments during the September 21 session.

Community comments on the budget were negative. The President of the Coral Gables Political Action Committee, Mr. Damian presented extended remarks criticisizing overspending, the management failures of the former city manager and the Commission’s unwillingness to remove him in the face crimes and financial debacles. Later Mayor Slesnick defended the management capacity and successes of the former Mr. David Brown, the city manager who resigned in disgrace. Mr. Slesnick’s commented that Mr. Brown had received as award as outstanding city manager of the year, which was met with scepticism and some restrained laughter in the attendees.

Only Mr. Cabrera and, secondarily, Mr. Kerdyck, raised any questions on the spending side of the budget with the city manager. Messrs. Withers and Slesnick, joined with Ms. Anderson, stating there strong confidence in the city manager, evidently feeling that it inappropriate to question the underlying budget numbers and logic. This is similar to the approach of only lightly questioning the city manager for close to a decade.

The bottom line is that the Mr. Salerno strongly defended the need for a tax rate (millage rate) increase from 5.25 to 5.995 (14.19% increase) to cover potential resources to pay for a shortfall in the pension fund. He indicated unwillingness to eliminate more than the agreed upon 43 full-time and 16 part-time positions in this budget and he implied that the pension fund actuarial analysis will require higher pension fund contributions than estimated in the budget. Mr. Kerdyk stated interest in a lower 5.75 millage rate (9.52% increase) but finally voted to accept a rate of 5.995.

About Stephen E. McGaughey
International consultant in economic development programs and projects

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