Miami-Dade County budget gap: $119.5 million and $2 million to boot (camp)
By Risa Polansky
Facing a deficit of $119.5 million that's growing daily, Miami-Dade commissioners are looking for nearly $2 million to save the police department's boot camp program.
The county's budget chief says she doesn't know where to find it.
Paying last year's higher salaries with union contracts outstanding has meant spending more than $100 million above budget this fiscal year.
County Manager George Burgess and the administration have devised a plan to fill the hole, mostly through departmental reserve funds and unbudgeted carryover money.
But a list of cuts to programs, services and jobs amounts to nearly $30 million, including $1.8 million through suspending the boot camp, a reform program primarily for young offenders who've been adjudicated as adults.
Commissioners last week — two days after a plea from boot camp representatives — talked of saving the program and finding something to cut in its place, reminiscent of September's rocky budgeting process.
At that time, it was budget committee Chair Katy Sorenson who incessantly reminded commissioners that a $444 million hole wasn't going to fill itself before the fiscal year began Oct. 1, encouraging them to propose alternative cuts for every program they rallied to save.
She took on the same role last week with the mid-year deficit in mind.
"This was the problem when we voted for the budget to begin with," Ms. Sorenson said. Everyone wants to save programs, but "we don't want to raise the taxes to pay for them."
She voiced support for saving the boot camp, but "I want to know what we're going to cut instead," she said. It's "real money, and it's going to have to come from somewhere."
But where that is, budget Chief Jennifer Glazer-Moon isn't sure.
"I don't know where to get it from," she said in an interview the day after the commission discussion.
Making the original list of items to cut that included the boot camp program was difficult in the first place, she said. "Anything besides what was on the list is going to be even more difficult to absorb."
Commissioner Javier Souto said during the meeting that "if money is the issue," he's heard the county has "a number of vehicles" that go unused.
"Maybe we should look at that," he said. "Let's see if we can sell them or whatever and use that money to pay for boot camp."
Ms. Glazer-Moon said the county does not have $1.8 million worth of vehicles sitting idle.
The administration has a few weeks to strategize, with commissioners set to consider legislation that would save the boot camp April 6.
Until then, it's to remain open.
Also that day, Commission Chair Dennis Moss said he plans to not only go over the manager's list of cuts but also to discuss what falls under the administration's purview and what should be up to the commission.
Lawmakers "need to be a part of that process," he said.
Mr. Burgess said the discussion would be "perfectly appropriate," but given the county's financial situation this and next year, "there will have to be choices made."