Small audience turns out to hear mayor on budget

Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez and budget director Jennifer Moon check data on computer during Aug. 28 meeting in West Kendall

Barely 20 of West Kendall’s estimated 200,000-plus residents turned out on Aug. 28 to hear Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez explain his $5.9 billion budget to run county government during the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1.

The mayor’s remarks and answers to scattered questions barely took up a half-hour at the end of a two-hour session, led earlier in Gimenez’s absence by Jennifer Moon, budget director, and Fernando Figuerdo, director of communications.

The session largely was dominated by Stephanie McIntosh of the Arthur Mays Resident Council of Miami who protested a lack of concern for maintaining public housing and providing job opportunities.

A meeting to hear public housing representatives’ complaints was arranged by Deputy Mayor Russell Benford after a second budget session on Aug. 29 at South Dade Regional Library that “drew a slightly larger crowd with several positive comments about the mayor’s programs,” Figuerdo said later.

Delayed by “the kind of traffic you all well know,” Mayor Gimenez fielded queries from a small turnout at the West Kendall Regional Library in the Hammocks on Aug. 28.

Prior to Gimenez’s speaking, Moon described budgeting high points during a PowerPoint presentation displaying key decisions leading to fiscal year 2012-13 capital outlay of $1.6 billion and operating expenses of $4.3 billion.

“We kept our promises made to citizens a year ago,” Gimenez declared afterwards. “We did it by developing a budget that would sustain operations for two years without increasing tax rates or requiring additional concessions from employees.”

“That two-year plan saves taxpayers more than $405 million,” he emphasized.

Gimenez credited part of the savings to reducing county departments from 42 to 25 (eliminating 1,767 positions), saving “nearly $80 million over two years, including $43 million in our proposal for fiscal 2012-13,” he said.

Gimenez noted creation of an “Impasse Reserve” to provide funding in 2013 for elimination of an additional 4 percent group health contribution by county employees, subject to county commission action.

Should the controversial 4 percent contribution be imposed again, reserve funding would be in place to make up the resulting deficit, he stated, noting that 2011 collective bargaining agreements negotiations will continue to save $158 million annually.

“My priorities as mayor are first, job creation, and second, diversifying the county economy,” he said. “Too many young people educated in our community are leaving because they can’t find jobs here.

“Our responsibility is to leave better opportunities for the next generation,” he said, adding his administration would focus on getting U.S. corporations with Latin and South American markets to locate headquarters in Miami-Dade while reducing overly burdensome permitting that stifles small business development.

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