Surfside looking to cut tax rate, personnel costs

For Miami Herald.

Surfside commissioners tentatively agreed last week to cut the town’s property-tax rate.

After the first of two hearings on the town’s 2014-15 budget, the council voted 4-1 for a tax rate of $5.03 per $1,000 in taxable home value, down from this year’s $5.20.

To the owner of a condo with an assessed value of $300,000, the tax cut would mean a town tax bill of $1,280, a savings of about $20 from this year. Those figures assume the homeowner qualified for the standard $50,000 homestead exemption and that the house’s assessed value increased by 1.5 percent, the most allowed this year under the state constitution.

A rate of $5.20 was initially proposed for this year, in a commission meeting held on July 22. This rate was given to property owners in the town, but after months of deliberation, Vice-Mayor Eli Tourgeman, who was elected in March, expressed concerns of a bigger government.

Tourgeman feels cuts should come from personnel costs.

“I make it clear what the cuts should be. Absolutely, positively, 100 percent no services,” said Tourgeman.

After proposing different property taxes, extending the meeting and delaying the regularly scheduled commission meeting, he proposed the rate of $5.0293.

Mayor Daniel Dietch opposed the lower rate stating that he wants to see “the shine back in Surfside.”

“Part of that is recognizing our employees, which are the bulk of our expenses,” he said. “It’s an investment in our community.”

Eliana Salzhauer, a resident of Surfside who started the evening watching the meeting at home, agrees.

“Nickeling-and-diming is ridiculous,” said the resident who left during dinner with her kids to share her feelings at Town Hall. “Employees need to be paid a livable wage. You want good employees; you have to pay them good salaries. That’s just the way it works.”

The commission will vote for a final approval on the 2014-15 budget at 6:30 p.m. on Sept. 23 in the commission chambers at Town Hall, 9293 Harding Ave.

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