MIAMI – Supporters of a no-kill shelter in Miami-Dade County rallied against the mayor ahead of a commission meeting Tuesday.
Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez's proposed budget cut funding for Pets' Trust Miami from $19 million to $4.5 million.
"We're here because we voted and the mayor has decided our votes don't count, that we didn't know what we were doing," said Michael Rosenberg, founder of Pets' Trust Miami. "So, what we're doing over here is people are going to register to vote and then we're taking that registration vote and throwing it in the garbage can that's over there because that's basically what's happened to our votes."
"It was a straw ballot and I believe that most of the people did not know the consequences of it," said Gimenez. "We can start to and actually go a long way to accomplishing what the people's intent was without raising their taxes."
Last November, voters overwhelmingly passed a straw ballot agreeing to increase property taxes by about $20 a year to fund the changes needed to turn the county's shelter, where about 20,000 animals are killed each year, into a no-kill shelter.
"I was voting for a tax increase, a very small tax increase to help shelter animals, to basically ultimately have a no-kill shelter in Miami-Dade County," said Lisa Howe.
Gimenez presented his proposed budget to the county commission Tuesday.
"I love dogs, I love animals, but when I think about the needs of the people, I have to put that first," said Commissioner Barbara Jordan.
"I can't do that. I can't do that under these economic conditions," added Commissioner Esteban Bovo.
Others voiced their support for the straw ballot.
"I will support the increase originally proposed," said Commissioner Sally Heyman.
"This is in three languages and I think people are not dumb. They know what they voted on," said Commissioner Jose "Pepe" Diaz.
Commissioners approved a flat tax rate Tuesday, meaning Pets' Trust Miami may not receive funding when the budget is passed.. Gimenez said he wants to give the Miami-Dade Animal Services Department an extra $4.5 million for its budget.
Pets' Trust Miami has since hired a lobbyist.