Our city staff has been working diligently on this year’s budget. Under these unprecedented times we have had to address a budget shortfall. Original projections stared out to be around 1.2 million. As Covid19 spread wildly our revenue sources have been negatively impacted. Sales Tax, Gas Tax, Franchise Fee and Slot Revenues all have taken direct hits and as of July they were down 15.54% Property tax went up slightly 1.83% This increase is split between the city and CRA. In addition to shortfalls we were faced with cost increases to address Covid19. These costs continue to go up. Our city has been vigilant in addressing the virus, but we do have cases. As of Friday, last week we had over 1200 known cases citywide. Thankfully, the infection rate has gone down to 9% but it is still to high to change course. We have rolled back operating hours in our Building Department to Monday and Tuesday. As of Monday, we have had 16 known staff cases of Covid. Some have recovered and other are still on 14-day quarantine. Special thank you to Tula Amanna of Flashback Dinner who will be helping to host a Convalescent Plasma Blood Drive on August 27th at 220 Federal Hwy. One Blood , Dr Sershon Fink, Commissioner Annabelle Taub , Dimitry Yakubovich and I are encouraging people that have had Covid to donate. It is safe and you can help give back to those suffering. It is not all bleak, but we need to remain vigilant. We continue to ensure we are maintaining our city operations and are planning for our future. Our overall budget is 143.8 percent. We have made changes to staffing. We have increase positions in Development Service by adding an additional Code Officer position, permitting clerk and administrative assistant. We have cut two positions rom DPW a project manager and administrative assistant. This is main because our Parks construction has been winding down with Sunrise Park and Chaves Lake still slated to be done. A proposal to cut boots on the ground was overturned by Commissioner Annabelle Taub and me while other sat by and either did not say a word or suggested that this was ok. They felt safe. Our Police Department had over 142 originally and was proposed at 134. There is to be 102 Full Time Law Enforcement Officers. I was alarmed that there was a proposal to cut 2 CSAs and not fund 4 part time officer positions but added a fulltime contracted Psychologist. I was so frustrated that this was being proposed in the face of Covid and budget shortfall. I want more boots on the ground not less. Commissioner Taub shared the alarming facts that over the past year there has been at least one shooting a month and in some cases two. It needs to be noted that these figures were from before Covid and during. We have a department of men and woman working hard for our community but with this level of vacancies they are operating with one arm tied behind their backs. We need to prioritize boots on the ground , not feel good measures or administration trying to placate some commissioners. After asking and pressing for more facts. Patrol is down 5 position, Detective Unit is down 3 positions ,K9 Unit down one , traffic down 2 and Special Intelligent Unit down 1. There are 8 sworn officers budgeted positions that are not on patrol. 5 are in the Police Academy and 3 are on sick leave. At our second budget workshop the two Community Service Officers were added back to the budget and 36,000 dollars left from the 100,000 budgeted for a psychiatrist was set aside for now for training. In addition, PD asked to budget a management study of the department and they need replacement vehicles. Many of our readers know that the city last year contracted with BSO. I have made it clear that I did not support this change due to the fact the commission was reacting to staffing levels that could and are being filled by a nation grant. The commission was faced with a lawsuit and lobbied hard by the Union due to pension issues. It has now been brought to light 40 officers moved into the FRS. I have yet to receive a list of the names and whether they are now receiving two maybe three pensions. I believe first responders should receive a defined benefit pension for their service putting their lives on the line and the stress that comes with these positions. The question becomes what is fair and equitable. This now is all water under the bridge as most of the commission supports the move. The most important issue to me now is to monitor this contract and ensue our taxpayer dollars are being used for Hallandale Beach and we are not subsidizing other cities. During this budget workshop it was brought to the commissions attention the projections that were given on the costs were not accurate. The move is now costing even more than the projected 800,000 but well over 1 million annually. The contract does have a built in 5 caps on increases. We are still waiting on a true accurate number. I have also asked for a break down of mutual and automatic aid numbers. At first, we were told BSO could not give us that number but came up with a count for aid given between Hollywood and what is to believe form our department. We are now combined with Pembroke Park and West Park. Last meeting, we were given a document that was compiled but not clear on the types of calls and included command staff in response. The BSO Chief Masters is schedule to give us a full presentation. I will continue covering the budget over my next articles. There is time still to fill out the census and it is super easy www.2020census.gov As always, I am available anytime with your questions and concerns at phone/text 954-632-5700 or you can email me at email@example.com . Please vist my Facebook MayorJoyCooper that has been reactivated. Like it, friend it, share it.
Budget 2020-2021: Watching Every Dollar
Before getting right into the budget I want to update our readers on some changes with Covid-19 numbers and restrictions.
As of this date Hallandale Beach has had over 1300 confirmed cases. Broward County infection Rate has continued to go down, but it’s still at 5.3 percent. To expand reopening there must be a steady decrease in this rate below this number for 14 days. Broward County has changed some restrictions by allowing restaurants to stay open until 11 pm. All the other Broward Declarations have remained the same. As we approach Labor Day there are still plans to keep our beaches open. We need to stay the course, so the numbers continue to go down. Wear a mask when you are out and about from your home, apartment or condo and you cannot socially distance. Mask wearing is now mandatory. Wash your hands regularly as well as all surfaces. These measures are working. We are all in this together.
In other news the County has finally worked out an agreement with the cities on how the CARES Act funding will be distributed. The federal government only provided relief to cities and counties with populations over 500,000. Broward received over 350 million with no requirement to distribute. A team of elected officials lead by Mayor Josh Levy of Hollywood has worked over the month to ensure cities receive relief. $140 million has been approved to be allocated to every city based on population, but also tied to specific uses. Personnel costs that have been tied to Covid-19 is one use. The other is based on a list of programs.
Our city has continued to document all our expenses tied to Covid-19 over the past months. We are all ready to submit the expenses which will go a long way to relieve or budget shortfall due to Covid-19. It is estimated we have incurred over 2 million in expenses.
As I wrote last week we continue to work on our budget. Dr. Jeremy Earle continues to look at ways to fill our budget gap. We are set on maintaining our level of services for next year and preventing draconian cuts. While we are not at a full workforce, positions remain listed but not salaried. Our staffing Full Time Equivalent level has actually increased by 1.5. Due to the BSO merger, 75 employees were dropped and are now with the BSO contract.
It needs to be noted when this contract was negotiated the city was still left with legacy costs from the existing pension and for those who wanted to remain in the pension. They were granted this option. Forty employees opted to drop out and then entered the FRS (Florida Retirement System). To be clear they are still vested in the old pension and will receive two pensions and in some case three, if they were previously employed. While the contribution to FRS is less in the long run, it is still 25%.
We made sure that a social worker position was funded. This position was cut last year which has created a burden on the department. Our existing staff lead by Director Cora Daise has been doing an amazing job. They have continued to serve our seniors with food distribution programs and have reopened the student programs with limited classrooms. This means the 80 children are receiving supervised care from 9-2 which helps working parents. With the demands increasing from the effect of Covid-19 this position is needed to ensure we provide the proper level of service.
Development Services staffing was increased to ensure we can decrease the delay in issuing permits. This department under the leadership of Director Venessa Leroy and Building Official Miquel Nunez continues to keep up under the constraints of Covid-19. We have beefed up our technology to help streamline the process and provide online services, but there has been a backlog of permits from when we were closed, combined with new applicants. Currently city hall is partially open. We are open Monday and Wednesdays and staff is working remotely Tuesday and Thursday.
For this budget we partnered with the CRA to add a new code officer to focus within the CRA. In turn this frees up staffing to focus on keeping up with demands outside of the CRA. We also added permitting clerks to free up enforcement time. Rather than handling all the paperwork they can work more out in the field.
I will go into further detail of the capitol improvement projects in next weeks article.
There is time still to fill out the census and it is super easy www.2020census.gov.
As always, I am available anytime with your questions and concerns at phone/text 954-632-5700 or you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please visit my Facebook MayorJoyCooper that has been reactivated. Like it, friend it, share it.