Key Biscayne millage rate

Above Key Biscayne

When Miami Mayor Francis Suarez recently announced that commissioners voted to lower the city's property tax rate by 1.2% -- the lowest level since 1964, when the city began keeping such records -- he called it the "only right thing to do" in the wake of runaway inflation amid a post-pandemic recovery.

Not only did it "show the world" what could be done, but it apparently established a paralleling trend to nearly all 36 Miami-Dade County municipalities.

Only four, including Key Biscayne, have proposed an increased millage cap rate as noted in last week's official release of 2022 millage comparisons by the County Property Appraiser Pedro J. Garcia.

Key Biscayne's millage cap rate of 3.2884, recommended by Village Manager Steve Williamson at the recent Council meeting, was approved 5-1 and reflects a 2.79% increase from last year's millage rate of 3.1990.

The 3.2884 proposal is for "all the bells and whistles," Williamson said, who wanted to make sure residents realize that "we are not raising the millage (at this point), just setting the cap."

There are a number of projects the Village would like to complete, or at least start, including several related to stormwater issues and installing underground utilities to ward off the effects of powerful rainstorms and sea level rise, at the very least.

However, without a firm budget in place (Key Biscayne will hold budget hearings at 6 p.m. Sept. 6 and Sept. 21 in Council Chambers), the millage rate being used is only for the required TRIM (Truth in Millage) notice to be sent out to property owners before final budgets are set at the city and county levels.

It means the Village's millage rate could come back down to last year's rollback rate, or even lower, if Council members decide.

The four municipalities proposing an increase at the cap level:

- Cutler Bay: From 2.8332 to 2.9388 or +3.73%

- Key Biscayne: From 3.1990 to 3.2884 or +2.79%

- Biscayne Park: From 9.5000 to 9.7000 or +2.11%

- Miami Beach: From 5.7626 to 5.8155 or +0.92%

Golden Beach's Debt Service shows a large 152.18% increase, but the overall millage rate cap actually decreases by 4.93%.

The millage rate is the rate of taxation for every $1,000 of a property’s taxable value. These property taxes fund local taxing authorities.

Last month, Garcia released the 2022 Preliminary Certification of Taxable Values to the taxing authorities, which peaked at an all-time high of $377 billion, an 11.8% increase when compared to 2021 taxable values. He expressed concern to the county and cities, urging them to reduce their millage rates by 3% to lower property taxes for homeowners and businesses, in addition to assisting renters who may be experiencing high rental increases.

The recommended 3% reduction would provide tax relief to more than 439,000 homestead property owners, who would see an increase in their taxes if their overall millage rate were not reduced by 3%. Most of the taxing authorities reduced their 2022 proposed millage rates. However, several cities chose to increase or keep a flat rate while considering a reduction during the upcoming budget hearings scheduled for September.

“I am grateful to those taxing authorities that have reduced their millage rates to support our community during these difficult times," Garcia said. "I continue to urge cities unwilling to reduce their millage rates to do what they can to provide property tax relief for all property owners in Miami-Dade County."

City-controlled property taxes are only one part of a property owner's tax bill, which includes taxes for other local agencies, which often bump up the total. In Miami's scenario, the owner of a median home valued at $192,916 would pay about $1,171 in property taxes, about a $30 increase from the last budget year (assuming the homesteaded property's value increased by the maximum 3% allowed), according to a report in The Miami Herald.

The proposed county-wide total millage shows a decrease of 1.17%; the school total millage reflects a decrease of 5.99%; and the state total millage (including funds for the Okeechobee Basin and the South Florida Water Management District, for example) show a 9.37% reduction.

Property owners may review their individual property values and tax exemption benefits online, click here, or call (305) 375-4712 weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

As far as Key Biscayne's proposed millage cap, it did come down from the Council's earlier 3.4 recommendation, mainly because the most recent taxable property value for the entire Village came in at $96 million more (a 1.1% increase) than the previous estimate, according to Chief Financial Officer Benjamin Nussbaum.

Council members passed the motion to set the cap at 3.2884 by a 5-1 margin (Council member Ed London, who traditionally favors lower spending, cast a no-vote after leaving the meeting a little earlier).

Ignacio Segurola cast the "nay" vote, explaining that many residents have been caught up in a time of recession with a lot of higher-priced expenditures.

"All the cities around us are lowering their millage," he said. "There is so much fat in this budget ... there's no reason not to set it up at 3.19 (the rollback rate) and keep it the same to show fiscal responsibility and discipline, and to do something nice for taxpayers."

Councilman Luis Lauredo, who voted against last year's millage rate, said: "It's lower than we passed in June, so we're moving in the right direction," although he said he realizes "people are cash-squeezed."

Williamson said the budget being used for now is the same one that had been discussed at a previous Village workshop, although he will bring back different scenarios -- some maybe capital project heavy while others not so much -- to the September budget hearings.

"I believe we're going in the right direction," said Vice Mayor Brett Moss, who indicated he would first have to see the actual budget before voting on the ultimate millage rate.

Suarez, meanwhile, was receiving praise from fellow Commissioners at last week's Miami City Commission meeting. Ken Russell said, "in this approval, we will not be reducing any services to the residents of Miami," while the general consensus from officials was, "We showed the world" what can be done -- if done correctly.

"... we knew the residents of Miami needed that reduction more than ever," said Commissioner Joe Carollo, while expressing some concern that the city's reserves would take a hit.

The mayor, in a tweet, displayed three graphics, one indicating "the lowest millage rate in history" from 18.24 in the early 1960's to 7.8875 this year; another that illustrated a 54% decrease in the city's millage rate from 1964 to 2022; and another bar chart showing a millage rate as high as 8.29 just just five years ago (the past two years, the rate was 7.99).

Suarez also received praise from Stuart Varney, host of "Varney and Co." while appearing on a Fox Business network segment.

Varney pointed out that the British publication, The Economist, which has nearly a million print subscribers, lauded the mayor's efforts and, in fact, recommended he run for Florida's Governor seat or even the U.S. presidency, something Suarez said he would consider.

The mayor explained how the city managed to pull off a decrease in property tax, indicating that the city has become No. 1 in tech job migration; that the city has been able to move over $2 trillion in assets under managed companies; and the high-paying jobs "we've created has put us No. 1 in the nation in wage growth," he said.

"... we had incredible growth, the second-most growth in recorded history," Suarez told Varney. "We grew 12% last year. And so we decided that with inflation at historic highs, with food prices going up, you know, with gas prices going up, that the right thing to do, the only right thing to do, was do exactly the opposite of what every other government is doing, which is to lower taxes. ... And that's what our residents are going to be benefiting from."

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