Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Even with budget cuts, Miami-Dade is expecting a property-tax windfall in 2015.

Miami-Dade is on track to enjoy a windfall of property taxes next year.

Even though it included no overall increase in tax rates, Mayor Carlos Gimenez’s proposed budget for 2015 forecasts a gain of $112 million in the property taxes that fund police, jails, libraries, rescue services and other county services.

Higher real estate values are behind the increase, with Miami-Dade forecast to collect 8 percent more than the $1.25 billion in property taxes that the county is expected to collect in the current year. If county commissioners succeed in adopting a higher library tax than Gimenez proposed, the projected gain would inch up to nearly 10 percent.

This Dade Data chart shows gains in projected revenue from the four property taxes that fund Miami-Dade operations under two scenarios. The blue line shows revenue gains under the tax plan Gimenez proposed. The red line shows gains using the maximum tax rates that commissioners approved July 15.

You’ll notice the only change comes with the library tax, which would cost $23.80 per $100,000 of assessed value under the Gimenez plan and $28.40 per under the commission plan. Commissioners vote 8-to-5 to reject Gimenez’s proposed library rate in favor of one generating about $8 million extra for the library system.

[Don’t see a chart? Click here for a link.]

There’s a chance Miami-Dade won’t actually collect all of that money. One of the reasons the 2015 projected gain is so high is that current property-tax revenues came in lower than forecast this year, said budget director Jennifer Moon. The shortfall is tied to property values being lowered during the appeals process, cutting into county tax dollars.

Whatever the final amount, projections show Miami-Dade is set to have a pretty good year when it comes to property taxes.

Gimenez largely blames the county’s financial woes on rising labor costs tied to union benefits and healthcare expenses. His $6.2 billion budget includes about 700 job cuts, higher transit fares, and other cutbacks. Despite the layoffs, Gimenez’s budget still records $2.42 billion in payroll expenses next year, up about $106 million from this year.

Union leaders accuse the mayor of cutting taxes too steeply in 2011 and of now refusing to pursue the kind of revenue stream needed to fully fund Miami-Dade’s government.

Either way, Miami-Dade’s budget picture would be much worse if not for the tax windfall projected next year.

This post is part of Dade Data, an online series from the Miami Herald’s County Hall team. Dade Data explores the numbers driving Miami-Dade County’s government.

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