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Five things to know to make your voice heard in the county budget

Your View is a recurring series of opinion pieces from members of The New Tropic community. To share your ideas, goals, and work about Miami with the community in a Your View piece, please submit it to [email protected].

The Miami-Dade County Budget season is upon us!

We all want to live in a community that works, reflects our values, and supports the best possible quality of life for ourselves and our neighbors. Our local government has an outsized impact on our day-to-day lives, touching everything from the water we drink and swim in to the parks we use, from the roads we commute on to public transit, from the airport to the type of development that’s allowed and where.

Every year, the county has the potential to demonstrate our shared priorities in the nearly $7.8 BILLION dollar budget that the Board of County Commissioners will adopt. The draft budget was released on July 16, and over the next two months, the County will host town halls and public hearings to inform our community about the budget and invite feedback.

District 8 Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava and Radical Partners, a social impact accelerator, have teamed up here to share a few need-to-knows about the budget process and how locals can get involved:

If you don’t have time to read the whole budget (who does?!), read the overview and the narratives of issue areas you care about.

The Budget-in-Brief is a quick read and gives a high-level overview of the county’s spending priorities. Beyond that, take a few minutes to read up on the narratives of departments/issues you care about (for example, Public Housing and Community Development or Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces). At the end of each narrative, you can also find a list of unfunded projects in that department. For example, in the transportation narrative, you’ll find unfunded projects such as new bike lanes ($50 million), bridge repair and replacement ($142 million), and the SMART plan ($3.3 billion).

Drafting and finalizing the budget is a year-round process.

Budget forecasting and preparation began early in the year, and Mayor Carlos Giménez shared his budget priorities back in March. In July, the tax roll (the list of all properties and tax amounts due) is released, the proposed budget is presented, and the County Commission adopts maximum tax rates (July 24th). August and September provide opportunities for the public to get involved. The new budget goes into effect on Oct. 1.

Over ⅔ of the budget goes to public safety, transportation, and neighborhood & infrastructure.

The “Your Dollar At Work” graphic gives a sense of how the county budget is broken down. Public Safety, transportation, and neighborhood and infrastructure make up the majority of expenditures, with categories like economic development taking up much smaller chunks.

Really, only about 4 percent of the budget is flexible.

When the County receives information on its projected revenues, over 96 percent of that income is already slated for required spending such as transit workers’ salaries and public safety. That leaves only about 4 percent up for grabs for allocation to priority areas. But, then again, 4 percent of $7.8 billion is $300,000,000, which is still a lot of money.

The time to voice your opinion is NOW.

There are public budget hearings on Sept. 6 and Sept. 20. However, by then, the budget is pretty much already set in stone. If you want to voice your opinion on the budget, show up for one of the eight Town Hall meetings on Aug. 14 and Aug. 16 (details below). At these meetings, the public will have the opportunity to provide comment on the proposed budget.

You can also speak at the September budget hearings. You’ll need to fill out a speaker card when you arrive, and when you’re called up, you’ll have two minutes to share your thoughts. A few tips: keep your comments concise and to the point, affirm what you and your network care about, and be specific about your request.

Upcoming Meeting Dates

  • Tuesday, Aug. 14, 6 p.m.
    • West Dade Regional Library (9445 Coral Way, Miami)
    • West Kendall Regional Library (10201 Hammocks Blvd. #159, Miami)
    • Milander Center for Arts & Entertainment (4800 Palm Avenue, Hialeah)
    • William F. Dickinson Community Center (1601 N. Krome Avenue, Homestead)
  • Thursday, Aug. 16, 6PM:
    • City of Aventura (19200 West County Club Drive, Aventura)
    • North Dade Regional Library (2455 NW 183rd Street, Miami Gardens)
    • South Dade Regional Library (10750 SW 211th Street, Cutler Bay)
    • Arcola Lakes Branch Library (8240 NW 7th Avenue, Miami)
  • Thursday, September 6: Budget Hearing, 5:01 p.m. at Government Center
  • Thursday, September 20: Budget Hearing, 5:01 p.m. at Government Center

 

Questions about the budget, budget process, or ways to get involved? Contact Miami-Dade County Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava’s office at 305-375-5218 or email at [email protected]