The pandemic forcing the University of Miami to largely close did not devastate Coral Gables because of the economic plan the municipal government put in place, city officials said.
“Like each municipality throughout Florida and the rest of the country, we have had to quickly pivot and adapt to changes imposed by the pandemic,” said former Mayor Raul Valdes-Fauli. “However, because of the conservative fiscal approach of my administration, I am happy to report that our services were not impacted.”
During the recent election Vice Mayor Vince Lago defeated Commissioner Patricia Keon to replace Valdes-Fauli, who stepped down after four terms.
Commissioner Jorge L. Fors said city officials had to work quickly to deal with an $8.2 million shortfall caused by the dramatic decrease in students and faculty from the university as well as decreased tourism, parking fees and sales tax collections.
“We addressed this by freezing all full and part-time vacancies except for sworn police and fire, and communications operators,” he said, adding that the city also used part of its reserves. “Additionally, all non-essential operating expenditures were restricted, and each department reduced other operational spending down to a minimum.”
The city also deferred funding to certain capital projects.
“October first marked the beginning of fiscal year 2021 and we have continued our conservative approach by carefully watching revenue activity closely to make sure revenue projections perform as expected,” said Fors.
Valdes-Fauli said university officials worked extremely hard to put safety measures in place, allowing for the resumption of in-person learning when the fall semester started in August. He said that helped local businesses – and the city – as students, faculty members and employees resumed patronizing local shops and restaurants.
For his part, Lago said he believes the future is bright.
“It won’t be long before this pandemic becomes an event of the past,” he said.
This story originally appeared in Miami Today.