We continue to make the safety of our residents our top priority, and have developed a wide range of crime-prevention solutions that improve security and peace of mind. Crime in the city is now at its lowest rate in 15 years, thanks to a multi-faceted interdepartmental strategy, targeted police recruitment, increased visibility, enhanced technology and collaboration with the University of Miami and City of Miami. In addition, we have filled more police positions than any other time in the department history, with some of the best officers from across the nation.
Property Values & Taxes
With a focus on responsible fiscal management, we maintained property taxes at their current millage rates, with no tax increase in 2017-18. Coral Gables now has the 12th lowest tax rate in the county. Residential property values continue to rise, and Coral Gables is one of the top areas in the county for residential real estate. In fact, a 2018 Miami Herald survey of local real estate professionals ranked the city #1 in hottest area for buyers, families and single-family home purchases in Miami-Dade.
To improve the dissemination of city news and information updates, we are now utilizing our resident magazine, social media, expanded zoning notifications, bilingual communications and push notices for upcoming agendas. We have also developed a Hurricane Call Center with a 305-800-NEWS call-in number for residents for prefer phone communications.
With an eye towards improving efficiency of city services, we unleashed the power of technology and innovation. We introduced tools like BriefCam, Traffix, the Crime Intelligence Center and new cyberscurity protocols, with ePermitting soon to come. As a result of our efforts, we have been recognized as a Small City-Smart City example of best practices by the International City/County Management Association (ICMA). We are also implementing digital technology to increase financial transparency. Residents may now access a new portal on the city’s website, with user-friendly financial charts highlighting 10-year trends, as well as tools that allow users to easily retrieve financial data.
In its endeavor to become a leader in sustainability, the city has introduced a number of new efforts:
• Electronic and toxic waste drop-offs
• Electric vehicles and charging stations
• Infrastructure upgrades that combat sea-level rise
• Development of LEED buildings
• Stronger environmental protocols for businesses (eliminating plastic bags, etc.)
In the interest of long-term expense savings, we completed more than $10 million in facility repairs, including Fire Station 3, several parking garages, city entrances and plaza fountains, Merrick House renovations and others. We have now budgeted for maintenance on an annual basis to prevent expensive catch-up costs down the road.
Art In Public Places
In addition to the widely acclaimed Carlos Cruz-Diez crosswalks exhibit, we expanded the city’s public arts program with the work of 28 artists in the Venetian Posts project, pop-up art galleries and the approval of several new projects. We are now positioning our programs for Art Basel 2019 to promote the city and its global arts focus.
With the completion of the $25 million streetscape projects on Miracle Mile and Giralda Plaza, sidewalks are now wider for cafés and entertainment, roads are curbless for easy ADA access, and new stores and eateries are moving in. Outdoor WiFi for downtown customers is free and abundant, and the four FreeBee door-to-door electric shuttles introduced to help customers navigate the construction are now permanent. As a result of these improvements, many existing restaurants and retailers are enjoying record non-holiday sales and store traffic.
In the interest of enhancing the city’s quality of life, we opened the Betsy Adams and City of Coral Gables Garden Club Park on Alhambra Circle, and proposed to increase the annual contribution to the acquisition fund to $500,000 in 2019 to continue developing these popular green spaces. We are also expanding our inclusive recreational programs for children and seniors, such as the newly- opened Adult Activity Center on Andalusia Avenue. In the interest of long-term expense savings, we completed more than $10 million in facility repairs, including Fire Station 3, several parking garages, city entrances and plaza fountains, Merrick House renovations and others. We have now budgeted for maintenance on an annual basis to prevent expensive catch-up costs down the road.