By: Diana Bello Aristizabal
The budget for the next fiscal year, which runs between October 1st, 2023, and September 30th, 2024, has been the subject of a discussion that started on April 6 within the City of Doral when the goals, needs, and values ??of the community were identified. As that process reaches its home stretch on September 5 and 20, when the first and last readings on the issue take place, respectively, at council meetings, what can residents expect?
The first point to highlight is that the community was able to see the budget projection in a workshop organized on August 15, in which each department made its presentation. It was revealed that the proposed general fund total budget for the next fiscal year is of $77,105,320. This represents a general increase of 14.14% compared to the previous year.
It should be noted that, although the budget proposed in said session hasn’t been approved nor has any decision been made in this regard, it’s in line with the city’s strategic plan. It reflects the vision that the Doral council has on how to provide a better service to the community. The budget has been impacted by the increase in the cost of living, the mileage rate that is now at 1.7166 (the lowest in the county), and the population growth.
“Twelve years ago, we had 45,000 residents and today, 81,000, meaning we must grow as a city in order to maintain the level of service,” Doral Mayor Christi Fraga says, adding that this fact has become evident in the city’s Solutions Center that has needed new employees to meet the public’s requests.
What are Doral’s priorities?
Given the above scenario, the proposed budget calls for significant investments in public safety, infrastructure, transportation, parks and recreation, and technology. “These are the most important topics for our community, aiming at providing a better quality of life to our residents,” Mayor Fraga explains.
Regarding the first item, the goal is to increase police presence on the streets by adding 12 new positions for police officers and 15 for police trainee. This involves the purchase of vehicles, license plate reader cameras, body armor, and other equipment and supplies.
“We know that for a while we have been under the number of police officers we need versus the number of residents, and we would like to increase the police force even more. However, the proposed budget for that department is only of around $33,000,000. We have to keep in mind that the 12 positions we would be adding this year were frozen the previous one in order to lower the mileage rate,” Fraga states.
In terms of infrastructure, the city obtained a $500,000 grant from the state, money that would be used to make repairs to 79th Avenue and improve the sewage system in that area.
On the other hand, the proposed budget will seek to positively impact the public transportation system in order to meet the population’s needs. This will be done by increasing the number of trolleys, making changes to bus stops, and creating a micro-transit program that is yet to be defined. “This year, we added five trolleys. In the future, we have to focus on improving our fleet, which is quite old, replacing the vehicles that should already be out of circulation,” she explains.
The cost of operations for Doral Central Park would also be included in the budget as phases 2 and 3 move forward. “We have to be ready to open the park next year, and that, of course, implies a budget increase in the parks department because we will have to hire staff,” Fraga explains.
Finally, the IT department will be an important player in establishing the budget, as investments will be made to expand the surveillance system and maintain the ‘Smart City’ label that Doral currently has.
“We have created a budget that is fiscally responsible, understanding that the needs of the population have grown. However, we have been affected by many factors, such as the fact that new areas have not yet been approved to be annexed to the city, which would have meant an additional income of $2 million dollars. Despite this, we remain focused on providing more services, adding more staff, and maintaining a better flow of information,” Fraga concludes.