MIAMI – It’s time for Miami-Dade officials to start making pie charts and crunching numbers for the county’s annual budget plan. This year, the focus is on how to secure public schools in wake of the Parkland shooting.
Mayor Carlos Gimenez’ $7.8 billion plan funds countywide operations and services, but it does juggle money to meet the part of the state’s new Marjory Stoneman Douglas safety law that mandates an armed officer in every school by next month.
“If we put all officers at schools, what about the crime that’s happening elsewhere in the county? That wasn’t an option,” Gimenez said.
The public safety plan is long-term one. Without raising taxes, the plan will gradually beef up the ranks and the resources for risk and threat assessments. However, initially, the additional police coverage will be achieved through officers working overtime and reserves
Nine new response teams will be deployed throughout the county. Their one assignment every day will be responding to an active shooter.
“We don’t want to utilize them. The best story is five years down the line somebody challenges us and says, ‘Wow, what a waste of money. You guys never even used these personnel.’ Well I say to them: ‘No, it’s worth every single penny,’” said Miami-Dade police Director Juan Perez.
The mayor’s budget, public safety and otherwise, now heads to the 13 county commissioners who have to approve it.
Miami-Dade's budget plan at a glace:
- Slice of the pie for police: Almost a third of every dollar will pay for current and expanded police resources and programs, a direct reaction to the spate of mass shootings over the last year, including that at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in February.
- Armed on campus: Miami Dade County budget will be subsidizing the cost of Miami Dade Public School district’s new legal responsibility to post at least one armed police officer in every public school. The new Florida school safety law, passed in the week of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, does not include enough funding to cover the cost. The costs of the armed personnel on campus and other public safety programs will be paid for by overtime costs and dipping into reserves until more stable recurring revenue is found.
- Active shooter patrol: The county police department is creating nine new rapid response teams, comprised of eight officers each and deployed to cover all areas of the county, whose sole assignment every day will be to respond to an active shooting scene. The police director said the best scenario of all would be for teams to never be utilized.
- Taxes flat, fees up: The $7.8 billion budget includes no raise in the tax rate, but does increase some service fees; an example would be an average $4 per month increase in water and sewer bills.
- County priorities: Among the budget priorities, according to Gimenez, are funding to advance affordable housing, a diversified economy that does not rely solely on tourism, and resiliency in the face future sea level rise. The 2018/19 budget provides for more library hours, more parks maintenance and beach nourishment.