The Cutler Bay Town Council during a special meeting on Sept. 20 reached decisions regarding the town’s budget, millage rate and a proposed high school. The council had adopted a resolution on July 26 determining the proposed millage rate, conducted a public hearing about the budget on Sept. 6, and on Sept. 20 passed and adopted Resolution 11-67 setting the final ad-valorem tax rate for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1.
The approved rate was set at 2.5702 mills, which lowered the rate from the previous 2.5888 mills, and with Resolution 11-68 approved the Operating and Capital Outlay Budget for the coming year at $41,784,643. Both resolutions were passed unanimously.
Cuts to the budget, including the elimination of the second-in-command captain’s position with the Cutler Bay Policing Unit, made it possible.
The matter of the planned high school was resolved with the announcement that the council was dropping its proposal of a charter school in favor of one that is part of the Miami-Dade County Public School System, which will be partially funded by town revenues.
Mayor Ed MacDougall, in an interview on Sept. 26, explained how the decision came about to change the previous plans.
“We had decided earlier that the charter school was the way to go because we couldn’t seem to find any other way to achieve our goals,” Mayor MacDougall said. “The outcome of that — not the intended purpose but the outcome — was that it brought the school system to the table because they obviously did not want a charter school, and we respect that. I think if there was ever a catalyst to this resolution it would have been the charter school.”
MacDougall said that the fact that they had a committee which was up and functioning and were committed completely to a charter school as a town made a difference. Two town hall meetings that were filled to capacity indicated that the majority attending was overwhelming in support of a charter school.
“I think the writing was on the wall,” MacDougall said. “The Dade County school system came up with a very creative way to resolve the issue. I met with the superintendent several weeks ago. We knew this announcement was coming.
“We went downtown and met with the school board members, Dr. Feldman and the superintendent. We discussed the issues and the superintendent had made the suggestion that they were willing to put a high school here in Cutler Bay, if we were willing to come to the table as a partner, and we told him that we would certainly consider it and take it to our council. The rest was history.”
Centennial Middle School will become a high school, grades 9 through 12, in the fall of next year, with a normal curriculum and three advanced academies.
“One will be Environmental Science and Technology; one will be the iPrep, which is computer science, and one will be a baccalaureate academy called the Cambridge Program,” MacDougall said. “Cutler Ridge Middle School will take the students from Centennial.”
To fund the new high school the Town of Cutler Bay will have to take out a $2.75 million loan, and the council approved the amount of $231,000 for that purpose.
“We’ve really had a huge uplifting of our school system,” MacDougall said. “They’ve guaranteed us that every child in Cutler Bay will have the opportunity to go to those schools first, and any positions left over will go to a lottery.”