FY 2019 Budget Approved

Susan Askew
Susan Askew

FY 2019 Budget Approved:

Millage rate remains flat, some fees increase

 
Miami Beach Commissioners this week approved a $345 million budget that keeps property taxes flat while increasing some fees.
 
Though property taxes did not increase, property values are up an average 4%, so bills will go up depending on your property value.
 
Sidewalk Café Permit Fees: After discussion about the hardship on businesses to pay a $5 per sq ft increase for sidewalk café permits due October 1, Commissioners voted to keep bills due on October 1 the same (paying the first $20 per sq ft in fees) while pushing the due date for the additional $5 per sq ft to April 1. By doing so, they give operators more time to plan for the increase but maintain the additional $358,000 in revenue in the FY 2019 budget year.
 
Elevator inspection fees (20% increase): Last increased in 2012, these fees impact all buildings in the City that have an elevator, escalator, wheelchair lift, etc. For the average residential condominium building with a single elevator, certificate of operation fees are proposed to increase from $75 per elevator to $90 and the fee for Monitoring/Jurisdictional is proposed to increase from $200 per elevator to $240. The total annual increase would, therefore, equal $55 per elevator. 
 
[Fire Sprinkler Fees: Of note, while approved in 2017, there is another building-based fee going into effect on October 1 and that is a fire sprinkler system fee. The fee was approved as part of the FY 2018 budget process but was not implemented immediately pending a citywide inventory. The fee impacts apartment buildings, condominiums, commercial locations, hotels, and other large dwellings. The monthly charge is based on the size of the service line connecting the private system to the City’s Water System. Rates here. Notices will be sent next week. 

Parking fees: Commissioners voted to change the following fees:

Entertainment District: Between 5th and 15th parking meter fees will now be in effect 24 hours. Currently, the fees are only payable from 9 am until 3 am. This takes effect October 8.

46th Street & Collins Avenue Parking Lot (P71): Prepaid flat fees at this garage will also be implemented 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Daily rate of $20 for non-residents and $6 for registered Miami Beach residents. 
 
The City notes: "The flat rate parking fee can be paid using ParkMobile (mobile phone payment application) or at the meter pay station. Registered residents will continue to have the option of paying $1.00 per hour only when using the metered pay station." This also goes into effect October 8.
 
If you are not already registered for the City's resident parking discount, visit the "Residents Only" page on www.miamibeachparking.com for more information on how to register.

Construction activity: Increased daily parking space rental fees (from $25.00 to $35.00 per space) for temporary use of parking spaces related to private construction activity that may pose a pedestrian and/or vehicular safety issue. 

Hostel Guest Parking: Increased the daily hostel guest parking permit for hostels located within restricted residential parking zones from the annual residential parking permit fee of $54.60 in most residential zones to the daily residential visitor permit fee of $3.00. 

Fee increase withdrawn: The Administration withdrew requests for increases in the Solid Waste Rolloff and Franchise Fees which were an attempt to get a small part of the way toward closing the recurring deficit in the Sanitation Department’s budget. Fee fatigued, Commissioners balked at these increases which would be passed along to customers. Earlier in the month, a recycling fee pass-through was also withdrawn.

Revenue enhancements
Finding additional money in the form of advertising created the most controversy of the evening’s budget discussion. On the table were proposals for advertising on the exterior of the City’s free trolleys and larger scale sponsorships of the Convention Center and advertising on the back of the City’s Fleet building facing Government Cut.  Those sponsorships are “expected to be in upper six figures” according to City Communications Director Tonya Daniels.
 
Daniels relayed the opportunity for $500,000 in FY 2019 revenue by piggybacking on the City of Miami’s contract with Outfront Media to sell the ads. That contract has 18 months left and she told Commissioners the City could pilot a program for that period of time and then determine if they wanted to enter negotiations at the end or discontinue the program.
 
CFO John Woodruff suggested the money, if approved, be put into the City’s contingency fund with direction later on how it should be spent. 
 
Commissioner John Alemán said, “I think it’s very important that we have these new revenue items because our temporary stormwater pumps are unfunded and unbudgeted. Year to date this year, we’ve spent $700,000 on those. I think we can anticipate that we’ll be on a similar number next year, maybe a little bit less. If we can bring some of our projects to completion that would be great but that’s a big nut. So I’m in favor of supporting the recommendations of the Finance Committee [to approve the item] but I don’t think we should get giddy about spending the money. I think we’re going to need the money for the temporary stormwater pumps."

Finance Committee member, Commissioner Mark Samuelian, noted initially there was “a more aggressive list” that the Committee asked be pared down to “something that would balance the fiscal needs of the community but also be sensitive to the residents.” He said he thought advertising to help offset the costs of the free trolley “is a fair balance so I think we should proceed with all of [the recommendations].”
 
Commissioner Micky Steinberg, also a member of the Finance Committee, said “I’m not comfortable with [advertising]. I don’t feel it should be used to plug holes. Maybe it’s additional gravy… Opening a Pandora’s box in advertising, it does worry me.” She said she found the trolley advertising “less offensive” for the 18-month trial period. 
 
Daniels reminded Commissioners that before any of the large-scale sponsorships would move forward, they would have to be brought to Commission and “fully vetted and approved.”
 
Commissioner Michael Góngora who previous served on the Commission several years ago said, “It really goes a long way to show how the City has changed since I served on the Commission before, because we always held the line on any kind of commercial advertising of this nature because when you open the door to this – yes, it is a source of income – but it changes the character and feel of our city.”
 
“I’m trying to be open minded to this,” he said, “But I see us just selling away the city and becoming something different and not someplace that is within my vision of what I would like to see in the city.” For him, the item that was “the least bad of the three” was the proposal to put a large banner ad on the back of the City’s fleet building on Government Cut which faces away from the city but is visible from cruise ships passing through.
 
Steinberg said, “For me, it’s opening the door. Once you start on one wall where does it go from there?” Even though residents wouldn’t see the ad, she said, “I’m uncomfortable opening that door.”
 
Steinberg said, in the event advertising was approved, she would like to see the funding from it tied to a specific project, “not just a general fund where it gets used for pet projects” but rather “that it goes to something really good. Then I think this is something worthwhile”
 
Alemán responded, with regard to the Fleet building ad which would be “visible to the cruise ships” and not residents, “that to me is a no brainer. If we can provide more and better services for our residents with that, I think that’s something our residents would support.”
 
She said she was “nervous about the parking garages… I don’t think the characterization that we’re selling off our city… I think that is overstating it a little bit, for me anyway. But the part that worries me in that line is the parking garages. I did get a lot of negative feedback about those.” She thought it would be good for Daniels’ team to explore the idea of larger sponsorships and report back.  “If doesn’t work for me I can say no then.”

Coming back to the temporary stormwater pumps, she said during the 18 month trial period for the trolley ads, “If we can raise $500,000 from that contract in this year, that’s awfully close to the $700,000 that we know we’re going to need for temporary storwmwater pumps that is not in our budget. We’re going to spend that money and it’s not in the budget and it’s a big number. So, I would be in favor of earmarking the trolley revenues not for pet projects, not for general fund but earmarking them for the stormwater program knowing that we’ve got a big gap there.”
 
Góngora said, “I do understand that the trolleys are very expensive – in excess of $11 million for those of you who are using them – and we are going to have to look for ways to offset those costs in upcoming years. For me it would be more palatable to charge non-residents a small fee to ride on the trolleys… [instead of becoming] a city full of moving billboards.”
 
“I don’t think it maintains the character, the look and the history of Miami Beach,” he said.
 
The vote was 5-2 in favor of the trolley advertising with Steinberg and Góngora voting no. Commissioners also asked Daniels to explore the larger sponsorship opportunities and report back at a later date.
 
Finally, when the Commission got to the vote on the overall budget, it was approved 6-1 with Góngora voting no.
 
When asked by Commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez why, Góngora replied, “Same reason I gave two weeks ago,” when he voted against the budget on first reading. “I had raised concerns about salaries, pensions, efficiencies, and I don’t really see that any of those items were addressed and I think our budget is just too high and out of control.
 
City Manager Jimmy Morales noted that as part of a process efficiency review, “We’re looking at individual departments that are seeing, just because of the way the world is changing, revenues going down. Parking and things like that. We’re looking at those departments to see how headcounts and operations can be streamlined. So, we’re looking at a variety of functions. Sanitation is one we’re looking at because, obviously, we’ve got an issue with the [Sanitation] Fund there so how we can operate more efficiently. We’re looking at all those issues as part of it.”
 
 

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