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Political Debates
Do you plan to attend any of the political debates planned throughout the county in the coming weeks?

Red dots represent what departments participants in last week's County Budgeting 101 seminar would be willing to fund out of the county's discretionary budget.
Dade County residents gathered at the administration building Thursday evening as the county commission presented the revised FY2015 budget, which they trimmed in order to stave off a large and unpopular property tax increase.

Not far away at the Trenton community center, another group met for a County Budgeting 101 seminar, hosted by former Dade County executive, Ben Brandon, on the same topic.

Brandon is running for the District 3 commission seat, formerly held by Robert Goff for five years, before he resigned to run for state representative. Currently, Goff’s replacement, Ricky Breeden, chosen by the commission, holds the seat.

The seminar provided citizens with insight into the budget creation process, highlighting the tough decisions required to produce a fiscally responsible budget.

During the meeting, Brandon presented a timeline illustrating the course of action followed by the commissioners over the past five years that resulted in the current budget crisis.

Rather than cut the budget, the commissioners proposed a massive tax increase of 44 percent, which was rejected by the taxpayers at a meeting on July 31st.

On Monday following the meeting, commissioners cut the budget in order to reduce the proposed tax increase to 25 percent. The cuts include reductions in some county departments that many consider severe, while leaving other department untouched.

The former county executive began the budget-cutting exercise by stepping through the dozens of revenue sources available to the county, most of which are beyond the county’s control. He explained that the bulk of the revenue from sales tax is highly undependable and is virtually always less than projected. Next, he reviewed by department those services mandated by law that must be funded at some level versus those discretionary services that the county chooses whether or not to fund.

Participants then had the opportunity to vote on which services not mandated by the state they would be most willing to fund out of the county’s discretionary budget. Each participant received eight red sticky dots to allocate among 19 non-mandatory departments. When the voting was complete, the group had created a picture of those services that they considered most valuable. Participants then began trimming the county’s expense budget by removing funding for those departments with the least votes.

Eventually, participants cut proposed spending enough to eliminate the county’s proposed $1.2 million tax increase. Some non-mandated departments, such as E911, were not cut at all, and no mandated department budgets were reduced.

Brandon has offered to hold a similar class to help citizens understand the millage rate – how it is calculated and its effect on tax bills. His overall goal is to help residents understand how the budget works and how to better manage it in order to prevent another sudden proposed tax increase. The most critical task assigned to the county commission, according to Brandon, is spending other people’s money wisely.

Visitor Comments
Submitted By: terry tucker Submitted: 8/19/2014
Ben is doing this the smart way Asking the public for their input is the best way. then they can't complain

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