Founder & Editor
On Monday, October 3rd at 5:01PM, the City of Coral Gables Commission will hold its second and final hearing on the 2022-2023 Budget.
The City is proposing to maintain the millage rate at 5.559 once again. The rate has remain unchanged since the 2015-2016 fiscal year. However, that does not mean your taxes will remain unchanged.
Taxes Will Still Go Up
While its a great public relations play to say that the millage rate will remain the same, the fact is that your taxes have continued to rise year after year. As property values have risen, so have taxes. The average home’s City taxes in Coral Gables has risen from $3,288 in 2016 to a proposed $4,123 in 2023. That is an increase of 3% for next year and a 25.39% in the past seven years.
As required by law, the City posted a notice of tax increases on the Miami Herald, which was posted about on Nextdoor. In it, the City refers to the changes as a “tax increase,” while urging residents to attend the September 28th meeting. That meeting was rescheduled to October 3rd, due to Hurricane Ian.
Other Municipalities Offer Tax Relief To Residents
Over the last few weeks, residents been have reaching out to Gables Insider about this increase. The largest concern is the fact that numerous other municipalities in Miami-Dade County, as well as the County itself, are reducing their millage rates and offering their residents a relief in the midst of growing inflation.
Three of our immediate neighbors: City of Miami (-0.1126), City of West Miami (-0.2066) and City of South Miami (-0.3001); have reduced their millage rates. The County is reducing its millage by 0.0467 and 0.0193 for non-municipal residents of unincorporated sections of the County. Miami Springs (-0.2195) and Doral (-0.1000) have also lowered their millage rates.
What Is The Millage Rate?
As defined by the Florida Chief Financial Officer’s website, “the millage rate is the amount of property value that is used to calculate local property taxes. Assigned millage rates are multiplied by the total taxable value of the property to arrive at the property taxes.” In other words, in Coral Gables you take the taxable value of your home and multiply it by 0.005559.
The City is not without increased revenue. Over the last few years, it has benefited from increased revenue from several large residential and mixed-use projects. This year will not be different, as the City will see its first revenue from the Life Time building, which we recently reported has sold for $430 million.
Previous projects have come online with their added revenue, in addition to the increased taxes on residents in residential properties.
However, there has not been an increase in services, rather we continue to hear that there is no money even for basic needs. So where has the money gone?
That is the question many are left pondering. The rate of growth and development in the City has only grown during these seven years and residents have yet to see a tax break.
Creation Of New Positions
In the proposed budget, the City Manager is proposing creating new positions. This accounts for almost $6 million. ($4.6 million for salaries, $950,000 for Insurance and $385,000 in increased Federal Insurance Contributions Act payroll taxes).
Talking about new positions brings about another question, what of the positions that have not been filled?
Here is what happens. The City budgets for each position every year. Open positions with no one collecting a salary in them eventually bring about the shift of that budget for use by the corresponding department or office. For example, the City has had an opening for an Assistant City Manager since the departure of Frank Fernandez in December of 2018. That position is budgeted at $181,129 for 2022-2023. It was budgeted at $194,134 this year. That money goes back into the pot for use by the City Manager.
It is a common occurrence in Coral Gables to create and/or have vacant positions in order to have a legitimate reason to budget extra funds for a department, which can later be used without Commission authorization.
Money Movement Without Commission Or Resident Knowledge
This is not the only way money is played with. Gables Insider‘s investigation into the sale of the Greco parking lot revealed the mismanagement of funds at City Hall. The sale of the lot for $3.25 million was deemed necessary in order to fund the construction of a parking garage on Minorca. The investigation showed that the funds for the construction of the parking lot had been approved and budgeted by the Commission years before. When it came time to build, the money was gone.
At the discussion over a potential parks master plan, the Commission was shown a slide that caused concern to some on the dais. The funds for the renovation of City Hall were $51,000. Some on the dais believed there should have been about $6 million in that fund. We learned that staff had been taking money from this fund to pay for other things.
Gables Insider inquired on what it would take for staff to move money from one fund to another. The answer was that there are no funds per se. Funds are created in a spreadsheet and money is theoretically set aside for a project. Since the Commission does not receive any monthly, quarterly or any budget reports for that matter, the Commission is never made aware that the moneys they have set aside for certain projects have been used for something else.