1

Miami budget cuts a 'wake up call'


  • Photo 1 of 6

    Sign for the Senior Center in Coconut Grove.

    - Spencer Gaffney, for Marketplace

  • Photo 2 of 6

    The senior center includes paid staff who would lose their jobs if the proposed budget cuts go into effect.

    - Spencer Gaffney, for Marketplace

  • Photo 3 of 6

    Many seniors wouldn't leave their apartments if not for the free meals served each day at the senior center.

    - Spencer Gaffney, for Marketplace

  • Photo 4 of 6

    At a senior center in Coconut Grove, lunch today is pasta, chicken, vegetables, a salad, bread, milk and an orange. It will be the only meal many of the senior citizens will eat today.

    - Spencer Gaffney, for Marketplace

  • Photo 5 of 6

    Senior centers in Miami-Dade serve 400,000 meals a year to impoverished senior citizens. Under the proposed new budget, that number would be slashed to zero.

    - Spencer Gaffney, for Marketplace

  • Photo 6 of 6

    Miami-Dade County is trying to close a $427 million budget shortfall. One proposed cut would limit the availability of the Marva Bannerman public pool to just 10 weeks a year instead of year around.

    - Spencer Gaffney, for Marketplace

TEXT OF STORY

KAI RYSSDAL: State by state unemployment figures came out today. Michigan saw its jobless rate top 15 percent. Unemployment hit 10 percent or more in fourteen other places, including Florida. The housing bust in the Sunshine State means thousands of construction workers and realtors are out of a job. Now the layoffs are reaching government workers, too.

Marketplace's Dan Grech reports on some of the cuts proposed in Miami-Dade County.


Dan Grech: If there's a county where kids need public swimming pools, broiling hot Miami-Dade is it.

Kid at a public pool: It feel like you're in an oven.

But the county's proposed budget would slash funding for 11 public pools, including this one. Instead of being open year round, the Marva Bannerman pool would be open just 10 weeks a year.

Linda Deal watches her grandson splash in the pool.

Linda Deal: I don't really think that the economy is that bad that they should stop all these programs. 'Cause they underprivileged kids, they really need it.

Home values are in the tank across the county, meaning lower property tax revenue. That's burned a $427 million hole in the budget.

Miami-Dade county came out with its proposed cuts this week. 1,700 employees would be let go. The rest would see a 5 percent pay cut. The $60 million a year spent on social services, arts and culture would be slashed to zero.

Daniella Levine: That was a shock.

That's Daniella Levine. She runs the Human Services Coalition, a non-profit that works with low-income families. It stands to lose $130,000 dollars a year.

Levine: It's bad now. It's going to get worse. For sure, people are being given the wake-up call.

The 13 Miami Dade Commissioners have until Sept. 30 to approve the budget. Commissioner Katy Sorenson says the proposed cuts would have a ripple effect.

Katy Sorenson: People are going to have mortgages they won't be able to pay. There are going to be small businesses they're not going to be patronizing. And the whole community is going to feel that.

Sorenson says she'd sooner raise property taxes than cut some services, such as the 400,000 free meals served each year to impoverished senior citizens.

75-year-old Lottie Person volunteers at a senior center in Coconut Grove. She says the county better think twice about cutting those free meals.

Lottie Person: Because they have me to deal with. They gonna see us at county hall. Tuesday. 5 p.m.

That's the first public meeting to debate the new budget.

In Miami, I'm Dan Grech for Marketplace.

Log in to post1 Comment

Thanks,Dan,for helping to make a complex and compelling situation come to life.

With Generous Support From...