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Programs, services in danger of being cut

Blacks impacted by county budget proposal

Miami Times staff report | 7/17/2014, 9 a.m.
The first of several hearings on Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez’s proposed budget took place Tuesday as commissioners debated whether ...

The first of several hearings on Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez’s proposed budget took place Tuesday as commissioners debated whether to raise property taxes to prevent cuts in libraries, programs and other critical services that impact the Black community.

Earlier this year, Gimenez proposed a $6.2 billion budget to cover operating expenses for Miami-Dade, the nation’s seventh largest county. But the proposal has come under heavy fire from community leaders and activists who are protesting severe cuts

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Mayor Gimenez

in key departments. Under the proposal, 674 positions would be eliminated across county government, but the library system and the county’s law enforcement would be the hardest hit.

Increase in transit fares and water, sewage charges and other reductions in services

Transits fares would also be affected under the proposed budget with fares increasing 25 percent for the second consecutive year, bringing the cost per ride to $2.50. Special transit for the disabled would also increase from $3.50 to $5.00

Also under the proposal, water bills would increase for a second time to 6 percent to fund the county’s deteriorating sewage system. Water bills were already increased to eight percent this year.

The public works department would be forced to cutback on sidewalk and road repairs and removing graffiti if the proposal is approved.

Hours of operation for the county’s 311 telephone assistance service would be reduced and weekend service eliminated. The system currently operates from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekdays and from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays.

The corrections department would have to eliminate the successful Boot Camp “I’m Ready” programs which helps to reduce recidivism rates among youths.

Largest cuts will impact library system and law enforcement

The county’s police department would lose 230 positions, an 8 percent reduction from the 3,000 member staff. Although it has been stressed that the cuts would be desk positions, but many leaders fear the cuts would mean less officers patrolling the streets. Residents in West Little River and other incorporated areas will mostly be affected by the cuts. Other municipalities like Miami Gardens, Opa-locka and North Miami have their own police departments.

Libraries would experience a 21 percent decrease in funding or $5 million less than the current budget of $50 million. That’s well short of the $64 million the Coalition to Save Our Libraries, is seeking. The loss would force libraries to cut staff and literacy programs under the Gimenez’s proposal.

Administrators are pushing the commission to raise the ceiling on the property tax to generate more funds for the library.

Gimenez said the cutbacks are needed to close a $64 million budget deficit. The budget will be reviewed by commissioners in three additional hearings before a final decision is made Sept. 18.

The new budget year begins Oct. 1.