Next week, the Council will fulfill one of its most important duties: determining how your property tax money is spent. This year’s budget hearings are September 11 and 25, and here are three things we’re hoping to see as that process gets rolling:

Consideration for restoring police training

At the June budget workshop, Police Chief Charles Press proposed reducing the training officers do. It wasn’t a proposal he wanted to make, but one viewed as one of the few ways to drop the line item for overtime, always a point of contention. As Press has explained, when officers train, he has two choices: Do it on duty and cover their shift with another officer, or bring them in on a day off. Either way, he’s paying someone overtime.

After an active shooter training for local schools, Press said he’s talking to Manager Andrea Agha about restoring some training. As he noted, Key Biscayne is an island, and if something horrible happens at a school or other “soft target,” help is miles and valuable minutes away, so KBPD officers need to be well-trained to deal with whatever occurs.

We hope the Council considers the big picture. Fiscal responsibility is a must, but there’s a risk of being pennywise and pound foolish. Public safety – especially involving our kids – is one case where spending a bit more on training and, if needed, overtime seems well worth it.

An app for that

At the workshop, the Council discussed an app for residents to report Public Works needs and more. Since then, we’ve received photos on everything from potholes to trash cans left out too long to poor landscape maintenance to a leaky sewer manhole. These are exactly the issues an app would be perfect for – residents could immediately report problems and fixes could be made.

One caveat: The Village would need to provide adequate follow-up. A reporting app is great, but residents need to see results. There are issues to be work out – likely involving added demands on staff – but it’s a great idea that would have immediate benefits.

Talk about a tax increase

A closely watched issue is what the Council will do with the tax rate. Former Council member Alan Fein suggested an increase, and so far, we haven’t heard any local leader come out against the idea. We won’t weigh in on which direction the Council should take – we trust our elected leaders are listening to their constituents – but we do hope they have a serious public discussion.

Big projects being discussed include beach restoration, buried utilities, hardening for sea level rise, land acquisition, library rehab, Community Center expansion, etc. It’s too early to know if each and every one of these is needed and if they have public support. However, we’d like to see those discussions take place in an environment where the Council isn’t artificially constrained by a perceived need to keep the tax rate at 3.0. Public input we’ve heard so far indicates residents are OK with paying a little more if public facilities and services improve.

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