We’re counting down to 2013 with a look back at some of our favorite e-News stories from this past year:
Property Taxes Lowered AGAIN
The City of Coral Gables has lowered the property tax rate again this year. The approved rate for the fiscal year that began October 1st is $5.669 per $1,000 of assessed property value. Last year’s millage rate was 5.869, a reduction from the previous year’s rate of 6.072. “It’s what residents wanted and we’re making it happen,” said Mayor Jim Cason. “We are focused on looking out for the interests of residents, and doing business differently than it was done in the past,” said City Manager Pat Salerno. The City will collect fewer dollars, approximately $1.4 million less, in property tax revenue. This is the first time in more than 35 years that the City has reduced property tax revenues for three consecutive years.
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City Named Among 100 Best Communities For Young People
America's Promise Alliance and ING named the City of Coral Gables among the 2012 winners of the 100 Best Communities for Young People. The City was selected for demonstrating a lasting commitment to youth development through educational initiatives, civic engagement, and recreational programs.
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July 4th Fireworks Celebration Returns
After a five-year hiatus, colorful fireworks once again filled the night skies over Coral Gables this past July 4th. Mayor Jim Cason and members of the Commission asked staff to bring back the Independence Day favorite with the help of corporate sponsors. Sponsors funded 90 percent of the total event cost ($105,000). Thanks to Bacardi U.S.A., Inc., the Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce and other corporate citizens, this much-loved tradition has returned to Coral Gables.
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Enhancing The Beauty & Character Of Coral Gables
There were several landscape beautification projects completed and significant contracts awarded. Among the most notable was the completion of the Segovia Streetscape Project and Ponce de Leon Boulevard Landscape Restoration Project near the University of Miami. Some of the features of the Segovia Streetscape Project include a beautiful landscaped median, and nearly 300 large oak trees planted from Bird Road to Biltmore Way. With the financial help of UM, the City replaced bare medians on Ponce de Leon Boulevard in front of the University with more than 350 Alexander Palms, restoring what was there more than 40 years ago. A contract was also awarded for the LeJeune Road Median Beautification Project which includes building 12 medians with trees, groundcover, flowering annuals and irrigation without reducing travel lanes. In addition to the projects mentioned above, there are several other street beautification initiatives that will be under construction early next year.
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Street Paving Initiative
Thousands of residents are enjoying newly paved roads. The Street Resurfacing Initiative will repave approximately 55 lane miles of streets throughout the City. The list of streets to be resurfaced is equivalent to what would normally be paved in approximately 10 years, which makes this the most ambitious street resurfacing initiative ever undertaken by the City. Phase One, covering 30 lane miles of streets north of US 1, is nearing completion. Phase Two of the project will begin in late January. It will include paving approximately 25 lane miles of streets south of US 1 and those in the downtown. Everyone will benefit from the elimination of the extensive backlog as the City will be able to stay current with street resurfacing needs as they arise. In the future, residents whose streets need resurfacing would not be placed on a waiting list for many years; instead, their streets would be repaved within a year. This initiative will not only improve neighborhoods, it should also enhance property values. This initiative is part of the Neighborhood Renaissance Program which outlines a number of projects to make neighborhoods the most livable they can be.
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Trolley Route Extended
This year, residents in the northern end of the City welcomed the Trolley to their neighborhood. The trolley extended its service to Flagler Street, adding 1.25 miles to the route and seven new stops. The extension provides Coral Gables residents with complete access and connectivity to major transit lines in the north and south ends of the trolley route.
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Driver License Services Return To Coral Gables
Residents no longer have to travel outside the City to get to a driver license office and then wait hours to be helped. Mayor Jim Cason asked City Manager Pat Salerno to find a way to make driver license services more convenient and accessible to residents. City staff located a site within the City and coordinated the implementation of this program with the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV), Miami-Dade Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), and the Miami-Dade Public Library System. In January, the DHSMV opened a mobile office in the Coral Gables Branch Library restoring a service that had been discontinued by DMV two years prior.
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Innovative PayByPhone Technology
The City recently rolled out a newer, more convenient mobile phone parking payment system. Registered users can now park in any of the City’s metered parking spaces and replenish their time remotely by simply launching an app on their smart phone. This convenient method to pay for parking has already increased parking activity by 50 percent.
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Alhambra Water Tower Restoration
The City completed the restoration of the iconic Alhambra Water Tower. The structure was strengthened and restored at a cost of approximately $280,000. A portion of the costs were covered by the Parknership fund and a group of preservation-minded residents.
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Grants Awarded For Trolley & Bike Master Plans
The City of Coral Gables received two grants from Miami-Dade County’s Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) for separate master plans that will provide a blueprint for the development of future bicycle paths throughout the City and for the Coral Gables Trolley. City staff applied for and was awarded approximately $80,000 toward the development of a citywide Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan as well as for a Trolley Master Plan.
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Tree Succession & Initiation Plans
The Commission approved the development of a Neighborhood Tree Succession Plan and Neighborhood Tree Initiation Plan. The Tree Succession Plan will be developed for residential areas with an existing street tree theme. It will be a guide for the planting of specific size and species of trees to replace existing stressed, dying or missing trees. The Tree Initiation Plan will be developed for neighborhoods with no clearly defined street tree theme. This plan will provide a guide for developing an appropriate street tree theme including specific locations, species and sizes of trees to be planted.
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New, Award-Winning Website
The City launched a new website in February with an easier to use Calendar of Events, Spanish translation features, a larger photo gallery, and direct access from the homepage to the most common points of interest. The website now reflects the values and character of the City. The City-County Communications and Marketing Association (3CMA), in its annual competition of who’s who in government communications, awarded the top Savvy Award to the City of Coral Gables for its overall website design in its Digital Interactive category.
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City Refinances Loans For Significant Savings
The City refinanced most of its outstanding Revenue Bonds which had been issued over the past decade. The existing bonds held interest rates of 3.98% and 3.50% and had been issued through the Sunshine State Government Financing Commission. Due to favorable market conditions, the City had the opportunity to refinance the existing loans for significant savings. After negotiations, SunTrust agreed to a combined interest rate of 2.67% to refinance this debt, keeping the final maturities of the existing loans the same. The proposed transaction will result in the City achieving $4.53 million of gross debt service savings which represents $3.53 million of net present value savings or 7.20% of the refunded amount. This equates to approximately $235,000 annually through 2031. The loan closed this past June.
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