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El Portal cuts code enforcement, lobbying in proposed budget

EL PORTAL

A tough budget year means belt-tightening for El Portal, but homeowner’s tax rates will stay the same.
BY RODOLFO ROMAN
Special to The Miami Herald
El Portal village council will be tightening its belt for the upcoming fiscal year, with code enforcement and lobbying efforts facing cuts.
The village council unanimously approved a proposed tax rate of $7.84 at the village’s first budget hearing Tuesday — the same as the current rate.
The council will have to vote on the proposed tax rate and budget at the final budget hearing later this month.
Under the proposed rate, the owner of a typical El Portal home assessed at $151,689 taking the standard of $50,000 homestead exemption, would pay $797 in property taxes.
Some homeowners may actually pay less than this year because of falling property values. El Portal property values have fallen more than 17 percent, according to the Miami-Dade property appraiser’s office.
The proposed $1.8 million budget trims roughly $155,000 from the current 2008-09 budget.
The village’s code enforcement department would be taking a hit under the proposed budget, which decreases funding for the department from $63,887 to $2,900.
The reason: El Portal no longer has a code enforcement officer. The village’s eight police department officers now also serve as code enforcement officials, a change that began in May.
“In these tough economic times, we understand that we have to do more with less,” Village Manager Jason Walker said.
Councilman Harold Mathis says the village didn’t waste time in looking for ways to save money.
“We started early because of the known shortfalls and still we proceeded with caution and responsibility,” he said.
The village also cut its state lobbyist, saving $15,000.
Walker also says El Portal will reduce funds for tree trimming by more than half: $10,000 for 2009-10 compared to the $25,000 allotted for tree trimming in the current budget.
Despite the budget crunch, Walker said El Portal has maintained a healthy reserve account.
The village has more than $700,000 in reserves for use in emergencies such as hurricanes.
Walker said he is optimistic for the village’s financial future, noting an uptick in paperwork that would indicate people are considering buying and building property.
“We’ve had an increase in lien searches and building permit request,” he said. “So, somebody is moving in.”
The village council will take a final vote at its final budget hearing scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Sept. 22 at village hall, 500 NE 87th St.

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