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Amy Sherman
By Amy Sherman November 15, 2012

Recent budget includes tax reduction

In 2011, Mayor Carlos Gimenez delivered on his centerpiece promise to reverse the property tax increase that occurred under his predecessor who was later recalled.

Now we are revisiting that promise in Gimenez's second budget year.

In July, Gimenez proposed a $5.9 billion budget for 2012-13 that dropped the tax rate from $9.74 to $9.55 per $1,000 of taxable property value. Much of the decrease was possible due to a slight uptick in property values.

The Miami Herald wrote that the tax rate equaled a 2 percent decrease from last year. In an unincorporated neighborhood like Kendall, the owner of a $250,000 home with a $50,000 homestead exemption would pay about $38 less in county taxes, which represent only a portion of the total tax bill. However, if a property's value rose more than the nearly 2 percent countywide average, a homeowner could see a slight increase in county taxes.

On Sept. 20, the county commission approved the budget 11-1 with Commission Chairman Joe Martinez -- who ran against Gimenez in 2012 -- voting against it. Commissioner Dennis Moss was absent for the vote.

We rate this Promise Kept.

Our Sources

Amy Sherman
By Amy Sherman July 23, 2012

Gimenez proposes lower tax rate in second budget

We are in year two of tracking Mayor Carlos Gimenez's promise to reverse the tax increases of his predecessor. With cooperation from county commissioners, Gimenez received a Promise Kept in 2011 for reducing the property tax rate. Now he wants to drop it a smidgen more.

In July, Gimenez proposed a budget for 2012-2013 that drops the tax rate from $9.74 to $9.55 per $1,000 of taxable property value. Much of the decrease in the tax rate is possible due to a slight uptick in property values. The budget would drop from about $6.2 billion to $5.9 billion due to previous cuts and reorganization.

County commissioners approved the rate in a 10-3 vote July 17. The Miami Herald explained that some homeowners would see slightly lower taxes, while others might see slightly higher taxes if their property values rose.

Gimenez made several other budget-related promises we will be tracking including taking back raises, for which he earned a Promise Kept , and not laying off police officers or closing fire stations, for which he also earned a Promise Kept.

County commissioners could reduce the tax rate further, but they can't increase it when they finalize the budget Sept. 20. That means that Gimenez gets another Promise Kept for cutting property taxes.

Our Sources

Amy Sherman
By Amy Sherman June 29, 2012

Gimenez says he will maintain or lower tax rate

The most important promise that Mayor Carlos Gimenez made while campaigning was to reverse the property tax rate hike of his recalled predecessor.

About two weeks after he won his June 2011 race, Gimenez proposed reversing that tax rate increase, and the county commission agreed. We gave Gimenez a quick Promise Kept.

But Gimenez must now propose a new budget -- while campaigning for re-election. His chief rival in the Aug. 14 primary is County Commission Chairman Joe Martinez.

Gimenez is expected to release his budget proposal in July, but he wrote memos in May that included some clues. One memo stated that the preliminary tax roll showed a 1.48 percent increase in the county tax roll. Gimenez wrote that his budget will eliminate 500 vacant positions and save $40 million as a result of his reorganizing the departments. He said he intends to "outline my plan for continued savings to the taxpayers, maintaining services at current levels, and reducing the employees" contribution to group health care.”

In a separate memo in May, Gimenez said that he would use savings toward "a possible reduction to the millage rate.” (To read more about the budget as a political chess match between Gimenez and Martinez, read this Miami Herald article.)

Gimenez said in an interview with PolitiFact Florida that he intends to keep the same tax rate or even propose another reduction this year. But we await his official proposal and negotiations with the commission, which will hold public budget meetings in August and finalize the budget Sept. 20. This remains a Promise Kept for now.

Our Sources

Amy Sherman
By Amy Sherman July 29, 2011

Alvarez tax rate hike reversed in new budget

In March 2011, Miami-Dade voters recalled Mayor Carlos Alvarez after he raised the property tax rate. During the campaign to replace him, Carlos Gimenez promised to reverse that tax rate hike.

"I will cut the tax rate by eliminating the Alvarez tax increases," Gimenez said at a June 22 news conference just days before the June 28 election. "Our government is just too big and too expensive. Taxpayers want and deserve a government we can afford. We need to eliminate duplication, eliminate unfilled positions and focus on essential services."

Gimenez had little time to wait to attempt to deliver on that promise after winning the election. About two weeks after he won, he unveiled his proposed annual budget for the next fiscal year which starts Oct. 1.

A brief primer on the Miami-Dade County tax bill. The county's portion of the tax bill includes separate line items countywide, fire service, library, Unincorporated Municipal Services Area for those living in that area and debt. County taxes pay for a variety of services including the salaries for police officers and firefighters, maintaining county parks, posting traffic signs and preparing for emergencies such as hurricanes. Property owners also pay taxes to other jurisdictions such as the school district and their city.

And now a word about tax rates. A property owner's tax bill is determined based on the value of their property multiplied by the tax rate. For a homeowner, that could mean if the value of their home nosedives -- as many did in recent years -- even if the tax rate increases their property tax bill could decline.

Alvarez faced the same problem of many local government taxing authorities: property values had fallen, which meant the county had to slash services and layoff staff, increase the tax rate or a combination.

So Alvarez and the county commission hiked the tax rate -- though Gimenez, at the time a county commissioner, voted against it in September 2010, according to the Miami Herald. Even with a higher tax rate, the county anticipated at the time that it would collect about $49 million less in revenue and layoff hundreds of workers. County spokeswoman Suzy Trutie said for the 2010-11 year the county was budgeted to receive $50 million less in property taxes and 264 people were laid off.

The total tax rate in 2008-09 and 2009-10 was $9.7405 per $1,000 of taxable property (it was less for those who didn't have to pay the unincorporated services fee area line item). Under Mayor Alvarez, that total rate increased to $11.0498.

On July 13, Gimenez proposed dropping back to the $9.7405 rate. To get to that lower rate, Gimenez proposed cutting about 1,300 positions -- about 500 vacant and 800 filled, reducing funding for cultural organizations among other service cuts.

Less than a week later, the Miami-Dade County Commission voted 9-1 in favor of the lower tax rate. The commission will finalize the rate in September. Commissioner Barbara Jordan voted against the tax rate decline while Commissioners Audrey Edmonson, Sally Heyman and Esteban Bovo were absent. Commissioners tweaked with the details -- boosting taxes for libraries and decreasing the portion for fire services but they didn't change Gimenez's combined total tax rate.

That means the Alvarez tax rate increase is gone. And for Gimenez, that's a Promise Kept.

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