MIAMI - Last July, just a few weeks after taking office, I produced a comprehensive County budget that provided financial relief to struggling Miami-Dade residents while still maintaining vital public services, especially programs for our seniors and children. That budget was built to meet the needs of a challenging economy, and it delivered on the promises that I made to our community. I'm proud to say that my FY 2012-13 proposed budget continues to deliver on those pledges.
As our local economy begins to show modest signs of growth, it's important that County government does its part to ensure that the forward momentum continues. So this year's budget is a responsible plan that reflects the reality on the ground: a need to leave money in the hands of private sector job-creators, balanced by the need to deliver vital public services to Miami-Dade County's 2.5 million residents.
In terms of providing tax relief and allowing residents to hold on to more of their hard-earned dollars, the budget I proposed last year included the largest property tax cut in County history. This year's budget builds on that trend with a combined 2% reduction in property tax rates, as well as further cuts to property tax revenues. Taken together, these reductions will save our taxpayers $405 million over two years.
And while allowing taxpayers to keep more of their own money is important, so too is delivering quality public services to our residents. So my budget plan for the year ahead maintains the County services our residents depend on at current levels – public safety, sanitation, children and senior services, and libraries to name just a few. This proposal also avoids further employee layoffs, which is especially important at a time when our economy is beginning to turn the corner.
In addition to delivering on my promises to cut property tax rates and maintain vital County services, I have fulfilled my pledge to reorganize County government and make it a more efficient, customer-friendly organization. Over the past year,I've led the process of reducing the number of County departments from 42 to 25, eliminating a total of 1,767 positions over two years.
We are working hard to minimize overhead and consolidate services, as well. A prime example is moving County personnel from leased office spaces in private buildings back to County-owned buildings.This common sense move has already allowed us to cancel over 112,000 square feet of leased space and will save $1.3 million per year, and we're still looking for more. Total savings from the reorganization are even larger: they amount to $43 million in this year's budget, and nearly $80 million over two years.
In addition to operating County government more efficiently, we have also reduced labor costs over the past year. The collective bargaining agreements that my administration reached with County labor unions will save our taxpayers over $158 million annually, and there's opportunity for those savings to increase.
Without a doubt, putting the County budget together is a complex, number-crunching process with plenty of moving parts. So since taking office, I've made it a point to make the budget process more transparent and accessible. This year, we held 35 public meetings to give the public, as well as our Commissioners, the opportunity to review each County department's budget submission. That spirit of transparency and open government will continue under my leadership.
My commitment to responsible budgets will continue, as well. The FY 2012-13 Proposed Budget minimizes our reliance on one-time revenues, makes us more efficient, and supports critical infrastructure improvements and projects that will attract job-creating businesses.The budget math may be complicated, but it adds up to a clear result: a more prosperous Miami-Dade community where our families have the opportunity to build brighter futures.
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