Last night, Monday September 12, while the Dolphins played on Monday Night Football, the Village of Palmetto Bay was having public forum in the Budget Hearing. You can look at the proposed budget details in this PDF document produced by the Village.
The meeting started with a nice ceremony to recognize the hard work and community effort of some young adults who spent their summer as CITs (counselors in training) for the Palmetto Bay Summer Camps program. Mayor Shelley Stanczyk handed out certificates to about a dozen kids.
Afterwards, the Council (Mayor Shelley Stanczyk, Vice Mayor Brian Pariser, & Council Members Patrick Fiore, Howard Tendrich and Joan Lindsay) got down to business. City Manager Ron Williams handed out the budget summary and proceeded to walk through the proposed budget. He showed how the Village in nine years has become a valueable asset (at $49M valuation) and that because of frugal process and sound decision has maintained a AA+ bond rating through very difficult times.
The budget was explained as a multi-step process. First, set the millage rate and then table it. Next, do the budget hearing and table it. Work out a final budget and return to millage rate to rectify the two. In Palmetto Bay, next year's millage rate maximum rate is already set (at 2.4470 mills).
At present, the budget is under consideration. There is a second Public Hearing on September 26. If no budget is set by September 30, then it reverts to prior year's budget. Despite a few hot topics, it seemed like the Manager and Council were basically in agreement on the numbers.
Like in all independent Dade County municipalities, most of the collected tax money goes to the Policing Unit. In Palmetto Bay, it is actually a smaller percentage than in other areas. The rest is for public works, beautification and other earmarked capital projects. Ron Williams also explained that out of all the property taxes paid by Palmetto Bay residents, only about 13% of that belongs to the Village. We still have a healthy reserve fund, but some argued that it could be larger because a natural disaster could quickly clear that out.
The Village Manager went on to highlight how the tax dollars go to sidewalks and street public works programs, stormwater drainage projects and more. He also highlighted the Arbor Day tree giveaway program that is partially supported by a $50,000 budget for Village tree planting. Just another way to support the Village in their Tree City designation.
It was also brought up that over the past few years that Commander Truitt's Policing Unit has continued excellent education programs for kids and fingerprinted about 300-400 kids a year at various events for safety records.
After Ron completed his presentation, each Council member gave their opinion about the millage rate. All but Fiore were happy with the already set 2.4470 mills. Fiore suggested that it be lowered to 2.271 mills and that a physical rebate check of about $50 be issued to each household to help with the difficult times.
When the floor was opened to resident input, community activist and former Mayoral candidate Peter England pointed out that the millage rate should not be cut and that he was concerned that in order to maintain services this past year the Village had tapped into about $1.5M of reserves. He thought services should be cut to avoid any further reserve spending.
The rest of the meeting was centered around a debate about budget to add two more baseball fields to Palmetto Bay Park, which already has six. Both the majority of the Council and the residents stated that they wished that no more fields be built and that those budget dollars should go towards improving Thalatta Park to include some way to host events in the event of bad weather.
There was further discussion about how to take the outdoor venue of Thalatta Park, which is quickly becoming a very popular place to host weddings, bar/bas mitzvahs and the like, and give people options should the weather turn nasty. Should they buiild permanent, air conditioned space or do more of a temporary tent...
There was a small "misunderstanding" between Joan Lindsay and Ron Williams which was slightly uncomfortable for those in the room. Lindsay was concerned that the baseball fields has made it into the budget without Council avote and Ron corrected her about budgetary procedure. It ended up working out civil, but it was strange to watch them exchange words on the topic publicly.
Several residents, mostly living in the southern portions of the Village near Palmetto Bay Park, spoke about how they wanted more trees and potentially succer and/or lacrosse fields to take the place of the two planned baseball fields. One long-time coach, who recognized he was the only one presenting a differing opinion on the subject, stood up and said the baseball fields were wanted by many others who just didn't attend the meeting.
I didn't stay until the end. I wanted to go see the Dolphins. But I did see this odd sight on the way out of Village Hall...
Given the tight budget, I wondered why this screen was on and burning energy when no one was there to watch it. Perhaps just the "Dad" in me, but I say turn it off...