Key West City Commission meets tonight

August 2 – It may be a bit of a sparsely populated behind the table tonight at the Key West City Commissioners meeting tonight, but business will be discussed as usual.

Sam Kaufman, Key West City Commissioner, joined Good Morning Keys on KeysTalk 96.9/102.5FM this morning to talk about the upcoming meeting.

One discussion point tonight will be the second reading of the ordinance requiring advanced notice of an increase in rent by landlords.

Kaufman said, “It’s important that we are careful with how we make any ordinance or changes to new laws and the public should know that we pay a lot of attention to this. This particular new law is focused on the dramatic increase of AirBNB vacation rentals throughout the islands. The idea is that we have to do something before many more of the homes that historically have been where local families live and our workforce, where they live, have become vacation rentals. There has to be a slow down to this.”

Other cities throughout the United States don’t allow vacation rentals at all. There are thousands of them in the Keys.

Kaufman said, “It’s an ordinance that’s sponsored by all seven members of the City Commission, so that should tell the public something that this City Commission feels strongly about this particular proposal.”

Another proposal could scale back the gas tax in the city.

Kaufman explained, “This is basically a regulation whereby every couple of years the county and the city within the county need to reassess what portion of the tax dollars from the gasoline tax, which is 5% from every gallon of gas goes to the local government. Basically because the county has so many more miles of roadway, the calculation for their particular portion of the gas tax revenue is increased more than the City of Key West.”

The county and the city have reached an agreement where that decrease of those tax dollars will be staggered over five years.

Kaufman said, “It’s basically just an agreement between Monroe County and the city to see less of a hit on the City of Key West from those revenue dollars.”

Budget talks will continue with a possible addition of four police officers and nine firefighters for Key West.

The millage rate at the moment is at 12.5% over rollback.

Kaufman said, “No one’s happy with the tax increase, that’s for sure. None of us in the city want to approve a tax increase, but look what the residents of the City of Key West are getting. You’re getting 13 additional first responders, four additional police officer positions, nine additional firefighter positions. We really need to advocate for the strongest police department, the strongest fire department. We have both of those right now and retaining that status, retaining the strongest possible police department and fire department is a top priority for public safety. Given what the citizens are getting in 13 new positions in that area and also the dramatic increases in fuel prices and everything else, we’re most likely going to have to have a tax increase, but 12 and a half percent, I don’t think any of us are going to see. That’s just the maximum it could be. I’m very hopeful that it’ll be less than a two digit tax increase.”

The increase in property values could affect the millage rate.  

Kaufman said, “Many of us are concerned because this hits the rental market harder. Businesses are already having a tough time staffing their businesses. We may see some small businesses close down by the end of the year because of just how difficult the market is in keeping, retaining employees. Believe me, we’re very sensitive to tax increases. No one wants one, but this one right now is absolutely necessary and I’m very hopeful like I said that it’s not that 12%. It’s much lower.”

In the city staffing alone there are 40 vacancies, so the decline in the employee market is hitting everywhere.

Kaufman said, “This is a nationwide problem. It’s not only the City of Key West and it’s not only Florida. If you look at places all across the country, I think it’s being called the Great Resignation, after COVID or during COVID. So we have these openings. All of the government agencies have openings. Private businesses have openings and staff shortages, they’re just everywhere.”

A few years ago, the City of Key West increased the minimum wage of city employees to $15 an hour.

Kaufman said, “I think we have to up to $18 an hour or even $20 an hour soon at some point. We are having a terrible time recruiting and retaining bus drivers and lifeguards and other essential personnel in order to keep our pool open, in order to keep our buses running. So we have to do something. As I’m saying this, all of the other government agencies, all the other private businesses are thinking the same thing and doing the same thing. I don’t know what the answer is. I suppose it’s a good time to be a young person and looking for a job because if you’re a young person and looking for a job, come to the City of Key West, you’re going to have one. You’re going to get one.”

Waste Management will ask for an increase in fees because of fuel costs.

Additionally, there could be a potential increase in salary for commissioners and the mayor.

Kaufman said, “Like I said last year during the compensation study, I don’t think any dramatic increases, the very dramatic increases that we saw needed to occur all in one year. I think there can be some modest increases, cost of living increases done over a period of years. I would support something like that, but I couldn’t support the 150% increase to city commission salaries. I just think it’s out of line. Especially compared to our lowest salaried workers. I mean we have workers that are still making $15 an hour and we need to work on increasing those first.”

Don’t forget National Night Out will be held at 5:30 p.m. Bay View Park tonight.

Kaufman said, “It’s really a great event. It’s great to see everybody from all the different law enforcement agencies come together. There’s a lot of camaraderie. There’s a lot of people willing to share information with young people. Bring the kids. Any young people interested in careers in law enforcement, it’s a great opportunity to network and to get information.”

For tonight’s commissioner’s agenda, click here: