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Budget Season Is Here In South Florida. Here's What You Need To Know To Chime In

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Hurricane season has been well underway since June but another season is heating up across South Florida this month — budget season.

For months, officials have been meeting and planning to present and decide on the budget for the upcoming fiscal year. And that’s where you come in.

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Over the next few weeks, commissioners will be voting on the priorities and departments that will be funded thanks — in great part — to contributions from taxpayers like you.

As those meetings get going, here’s a quick look at how the budget process works — along with when and how you can weigh in on what gets financial support.

So, what makes up my county’s budget?

In simplest terms, it’s the money the county expects to bring in (revenue) and everything they expect to spend (expenditures) in the next fiscal year. County departments send funding requests to your county’s Office of Management and Budget (your county might have a slightly different name for this department). And revenue and expenditures from previous fiscal years also play a role in the budgeting process.

The projections for revenue come from what your county expects to bring in through funding sources like property taxes, transit revenue, water and sewer bills and grants.

Meanwhile, the expected spending estimates come from all the services the county anticipates funding with that revenue.

The two amounts, according to state statute, must be the same at the end of the process so the county can head into the new year with a balanced budget.

What is the breakdown of my county’s budget? 

The budget is broken down into multiple sections, things like: public safety, parks and recreation, culture, economic development, health and human services, infrastructure, transportation, and a general government fund.

Those funds are also split between departments like the mayor’s office and the various county districts that commissioners oversee.

You can find more details for each county at the following links: Palm Beach, Broward, Miami-Dade, Monroe.

Where can I find past county or municipality budgets?

Here are past budgets for each of the four South Florida counties: Monroe, Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach.

You can search for your municipality’s budget by visiting their website and then navigating to their budget section. Not all of them will list previous fiscal year budgets but many do, so don’t give up if you don’t find what you’re looking for on a first glance!

What does my county commission approve? 

They’ll be voting this month on the budget plan and what will get funded and spent. They’ll also set the property tax rate for the county. And if you’re curious about property taxes and how they’re administered, learn more here.

If you live in a specific municipality — like Marathon, Miami Gardens, Boynton Beach or Boca Raton for example, and not an unincorporated area — your commission or council will do the same.

When is the budget finalized? 

The 2021-2022 fiscal year starts Oct. 1 so the county budget has to be finalized by Sept. 30.

When will the commissions hold their meetings? 

There are at least two formal public hearings for each of the counties. You can find details on the meetings, their times and locations below:

Palm Beach County
Both meetings begin at 5:05 p.m.

Robert Weisman Government Center
301 N Olive Ave.
West Palm Beach, FL 33401

  • Sept. 9
  • Sept. 20

Broward County
Both meetings begin at 5:01 p.m.

Broward Governmental Center
115 S. Andrews Ave.
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301

  • Sept. 9
  • Sept. 21

Miami-Dade County
Both meetings begin at 5:01 p.m.

Stephen P. Clark Government Center
111 NW 1st St.
Miami, Florida, 33128

  • Sept. 14
  • Sept. 28

Monroe County
All three meetings begin at 5:05 p.m.

Murray Nelson Government Center
102050 Overseas Hwy.
Key Largo, FL 33037

  • Sept. 8
  • Sept. 9
  • Sept. 15

In general, how long do budget hearings last? 

There’s no set time for how long the hearings last and it can vary based on the discussions on the day, or priorities a particular county is facing. And there can be even more variation at the municipal level.

In short: Definitely plan for at least a few hours of discussion but also know that it could be much shorter than that.

Can I submit comments about the budget ahead of time to the commission (or council)? 

You can! Each county has a process and you have to select the budget hearing as the meeting you want to comment on. Here are those links: Broward, Miami-Dade, Monroe (details are at the top of the document), Palm Beach.

At the city, town and village level, you’ll have to check the processes for where you live on your municipality’s website.

How much time am I allowed during public comment to weigh in? Can I speak more than once? Am I allowed to pose questions to the dais? 

These times vary from county to county and from city to town across South Florida, but can range from about 30 seconds to two minutes. If you’re not certain, you can check with the clerk’s office — by calling or emailing them — to make sure of the timing before you sign up or make your way to the commission chambers.

Generally you can only speak once, and you can pose questions, but commissioners may direct you to a staff member who can provide more specifics or file away the question for another part of the discussion so an employee can provide a more detailed answer.