Copyright© Catalyst Miami 2015
County Commissioners Vote to Help Libraries; Other Services Still Face Impending Cuts
By: James Gordon
Miami-Dade County commissioners voted Tuesday to raise property tax-rates in order to avoid impending library layoffs. The commissioner’s 8-5 vote to increase the library tax rate for the next fiscal year opposes Mayor Carlos Gimenez’s original recommendation, which called for no tax increases. Gimenez now has 10 days to veto the commissioners’ vote.
The commissioners’ decision to increase library funding follows notable public outcry against potential library layoffs. As reported by the Miami Herald, over 100 library supporters filled the County Hall on Tuesday in order to show their support for increased library funding. In agreement with library supporters, the county commissioners ultimately voted to raise the library tax-rate ceiling in order to bring the library budget to $52 million—$8 million more than Mayor Gimenez’s originally proposed budget of $44 million, according to the Herald.
Though initially appearing as a victory, the commissioner’s vote was met with mixed feelings. Though the increased funding successfully prevents the highly opposed library staff layoffs, it does nothing to improve current library services, which were strongly advocated for by the attendees of Tuesday’s County Hall meeting. Furthermore, despite their decision in regards to the libraries, commissioners ultimately voted to adopt all of Mayor Gimenez’s other proposed tax rates. Gimenez’s proposal firmly opposes tax hikes and instead calls for concessions from the county’s unions in order to avoid service cuts and layoffs. Without these concessions, the Mayor’s proposed budget could eliminate almost 600 county jobs, according to the Miami Herald. A significant portion of these layoffs would come from the ranks of our police officers.
Also affected by Gimenez’s proposed budget are Miami’s many Community Based Organizations (CBOs), many of which face funding cuts of up to 10%. A chart from the Miami Herald breaks down the proposed funding for all 374 of Miami’s CBOs. Thus, the decisions made by the county commission on Tuesday were largely met with a degree of dissatisfaction, with many calling for the commissioners to budget the limited funds without making cuts to the many essential services that benefit our Miami communities. With the final vote on the budget not scheduled until September, there is still time to take action. It is essential that the time remaining be used to contact our commissioners and express the need for a budget that meets the needs of our community without making serious cuts to so many essential services. And with almost a week left to make his decision, we must assure that Mayor Gimenez does not veto the commission’s decision to increase the library tax rate. With the final budget decisions fast approaching, now is the time to pick up the phones and make our voices heard.