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After public outcry and mostly negative reaction to North Miami’s plan for borrowing millions to make citywide fixes, the city is going back to the drawing board to provide more details and scale back the plan.
Residents and City Council members seemed to agree that the 91-year-old city needs to make improvements to aging buildings and infrastructure but that the initial plan, which would finance about $135 million in improvements, had some flaws.
For more than a year, North Miami has been considering a general obligation bond that residents would have to repay over the next few decades. At Tuesday’s council meeting, citizens who spoke were unanimously against the plan.
“I think everybody agrees the city needs things. I think people want to know what they’re buying,” Bob Pechon said.
The city’s initial estimates put the cost of improvements as high as $196 million but Tuesday, the council scaled back those plans to about $135 million. Staff presented a plan that divides that money into three areas: public facilities, technology and infrastructure.
The scaling back included removing about $10 million in funding for a new police parking garage, about $10.7 million for expanding the Museum of Contemporary Art and about $19.7 million that would have funded science labs and renovations of the Miami New Way Theater, along with other smaller adjustments.
Staff also considered recommending that residents vote on the bond as soon as December or January, via mail ballot. But some council members argued that the referendum would be dead on arrival without resident input.
“If they don’t have buy in, we’ll just be putting something on the ballot that will fail,” Councilman Scott Galvin said.
City Manager Larry Spring said staff will provide a more detailed breakdown of costs and incorporate funding for affordable housing and measures to deal with sea-level rise. In the city of Miami, the $400 million bond that voters will decide on in November is primarily focused on sea-level rise and includes about $100 million set aside for housing aid.
“The reason why some of these categories are the way they are is so we can have that level of flexibility,” Spring said. “It’s going to take more, we’re not done.”
Staff estimated that homeowners would see an increase of about $2.89 per $1,000 of assessed home value with the bond. That would be added to the city’s tax rate of $7.50 per $1,000. Council members directed staff to also host additional town hall meetings and to provide more information to residents.
“There will be no vote until all numbers are delineated,” Councilwoman Carol Keys said.
Mayor Smith Joseph said the bond plan is “not an easy decision” but argued that it’s necessary.
“We expect extraordinary things with the same budget every year, it’s not going to happen,” Joseph said.