It’s county budget time! Tell the mayor what to spend your $ on.

Planning a $7.1 billion budget that will affect more than 2.6 million people is serious business. County departments met for months to plan their requests, then the mayor’s office and county commission mulled it over for even more months.

The result is the proposed 2016-17 county budget (behind that link is a summary and a doc that goes through the budget line by line). Now it’s your turn to weigh in.

Courtesy of Miami-Dade CountyThe first public hearing on the county budget is today at 5 p.m. at the Board of County Commissioners office in Downtown Miami. That means anyone is welcome to pop in and have their voice heard.

The public has managed to push some pretty big changes in the past. At the county’s first budget hearing last year, the sole mention of sea-level rise in Mayor Carlos Gimenez’s $6.8 billion proposed county budget was that it was an “unfunded capital plan.”

At the second meeting, after the rallying of more than 80 community activists coming from all around Miami-Dade who felt maybe we should be spending a little more attention to the issue, the Board approved $300,000 for sea level rise resilience and agreed to hire a climate change resilience officer for $75,000 a year.

That’s a pretty fast response, as far as local government goes. If you care about a specific cause or initiative, this is the place to get that on the record. And if you want to see some real changes in spending, the budget hearings are a good shot at getting something done.

Here’s how the whole budgeting process works:

  • 25 county departments submit business plans (aka requests for money to do their jobs for the next year) by February — departments covering things like water and sewer, library services, elections, and fire rescue services.
  • All those plans go to the Office of Management and Budget. In July the mayor presents the entire budget to the public.
  • Then millage rates are figured out, this is basically the property tax. (Millage means the amount per $1,000 that’s being taxed.) The board of county commissioners sets the millage rate then holds a public hearing to settle them.
  • All the taxpayers — that’s you — get their window to have a say via today’s public meeting.
  • If there are any changes, a memo goes out detailing all of them before the next and final public hearing, which this year is on Sept. 22. More changes can be proposed at this point, too.
  • At the end of that meeting, the final budget is adopted by the mayor and board of county commission. (So it’s kind of a big deal.)
  • On Oct. 1 the new budget officially goes into effect.

Here’s what the proposed budget looks like now:

Here’s how the budget would be allotted if it totaled $1. (Courtesy of Miami-Dade County)

Here’s a little more of a breakdown:

Here are some things to know about the proposed 2016-17 budget before you show up:

  • We were looking pretty good budget-wise earlier this year, but Zika control efforts pushed the county $10 million over last year’s overall budget. Mayor Carlos Gimenez warned in a memo that there’s less wiggle room this time around in the general fund because of Zika.
  • He also cautioned that tourism dollars might slow if we get less visitors over the next year because of the virus, which will also shrink the budget.
  • Gimenez also says that expediting the counting of petitions for a campaign finance initiative hich he said cost up to $900,000 put the county’s finances in a bit of a tight spot.