Homestead City Council took other actions at its special call session and Committee of the Whole on Tuesday September 8.

A proposed City budget prepared by staff was tentatively endorsed by a vote of 4 to 3 but final decisions on major items pushed the process to September 23’s scheduled hearing.

On the budget agenda, Council approved a 6.38% increase for water and sewer rates to be effective October 1.

The City reconfigured its water rates late in 2019 after ten years without any rate changes.

Earlier this year, Council also voted to tie water rates annually to the Consumer Price Index.

Mayor Steve Losner asked what the average consumer cost would be with this new increase.

Staff said based on standards of usage, customers would see a $3.90 rise monthly. Mayor Losner found from staff that funding reserves subsidized water costs over the ten year freeze at a cost of $14 million.

Council approved the scheduled water rate increase unanimously.

Council also approved its five-year local mitigation strategy as required under the National Flood Insurance program as a potential moderation to insurance costs.

Sitting as the CRA Board, Council considered the agency’s $4,916,995 submitted budget.

Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) plans $479,747 in employee costs, $580,439 in administrative costs, and $381,825 costs for ‘other’.

Program costs were budgeted at $1.1 million while projects were budgeted at $2.3 million.

CRA programs planned to continue community policing efforts costing $252,484 including the salaries of one police officer plus a Code Compliance officer.

Redevelopment support was budgeted for $450,000 that included $100,000 for façade improvements and a Historic District entry feature, $200,000 for grants for Krome Avenue business improvements, and $150,000 for business incentives like rent assistance, utility service credits, and reimbursable build-out and impact fee assistance.

Neighborhood improvements under CRA proposed $240,000 for ground maintenance with another $87,500 for a litter squad.

The budget included $50,000 for down payment assistance in the targeted neighborhoods, $50,000 to combat illegal dumping, $50,000 to support dumpster enclosures, and proposed $60,000 for “blight removal”. A final $150,000 was budgeted for a concerted Flagler Avenue cleanup-up.

The largest proposed expenditure was a $900,000 land acquisition item on Flagler Avenue. The CRA Director said an application was made for a federal Brownfield grant for clean-up efforts on this potentially polluted lot.

Council had favorable comments on the CRA plans and unanimously adopted the proposed budget.

The regularly scheduled COW meeting held after hours of budget negotiations was brief. Council approved City insurance packages from a local broker from Preferred Governmental Insurance Trust, for a general liability package costing $431,186.

The City’s excess workers compensation insurance rose 7.6% to $213,409 perhaps due to COVID overtime. Cyber liability insurance cost another $28,954 for the year.

Two grants were accepted.

The Children’s Trust youth enrichment monies of $195,811 provide after school and college prep programs for sixty students yet only require $6,000 match. The Edward Byrne Memorial grant for law enforcement provides $49,837 training and for overtime.

Finally, the analytical laboratory services contract was renewed. The company provides comprehensive water and sewer testing as needed.

Staff budgeted $108,000 this year, its tenth year of service.

The Wednesday September 23 final budget hearing at 5 pm will be directly followed by a regular meeting of Council.

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