Updated: Oct 7
Last week I shared with our readers that our staff is currently working on our 2016-2017 city budget. Over the past two weeks we have held our Town Hall meetings on the City Managers proposed budget. The residents that attended shared some interesting concerns and questions. It is wonderful to have our new residents attend and become aquatinted with our staff and all the services we provide. City Manager Rosemond introduced our robust Parks Master Plan and our capital improvement schedule which has not been added to so far.
There has not been any discussion or proposals to increase our fees not or tax rate. Last year we held the tax rate the same. Last year we did a rate increase to our Fire Fee. This was due to two main factors. The first was a full audit and evaluation of the calls for service distribution to each class of properties. This fee is a statutorily controlled fee and if is not correct it can be legally challenged. The other was to plan for scheduled vehicle and apparatus replacements. Keeping the tax rate, the same and the Fire Fee adjustment allowed for our commission to maintain your level of services, plan for our future and not use any reserves to balance our budget.
Our revenues are dependent on property values. These values are calculated every year and then submitted by the Broward County Property appraiser’s office to every city. In order to budget projections are forecasted with a conservative percentage increase. With the past few years trending upward this year projected is at 5%.
This past Monday Broward the taxable values were announced by PA Lori Parrish. Our city’s overall estimated values changed by 10.58 percent and the adjusted value increased by 7.66 percent. This is great news and will allow us to look at budget with greater flexibility.
In years past we have strived to reduce our tax rate and have even gone to roll back. During the recession we remained steadfast in keeping our tax low and services levels the same or greater. I am very optimistic that this year we will be able to continue on the same path. It will be great to consider a roll back but it is a bit premature.
There will be some additional demand on our budget as we increase the level of services at OB Johnson Park and the Hepburn Center. We always have review of our insurance costs and other personnel benefit programs. The pension funds are stable due to what is a called smoothing, spreading losses over multiple years, and gains on investments. Water, sewer and storm water costs are also stable at this time. The one utility that is being evaluated this year is our solid waste services.
This past Monday we conducted a workshop to review the first steps in the three-part evaluation. Kessler Consulting has spent over a year reviewing every single aspect of this division. The management assessment points out many strengths but in turn many weaknesses. The catalyst for the evaluation was a proposal by our former manager to increase our rates to keep the enterprise fund in the black. We were told because there had not been any increases in prior years and a decrease in residential multifamily the rate increase was warranted.
There was no way I nor my colleagues at the time were going to support an increase without data and proper management performance review. We wanted to know what staff was doing right. What could be done differently. What resources would be needed to make the department more efficient. How we could increase recycling. I asked for the study and it was approved.
The next phase will be the consultant working with staff and furthering the findings. The consultant shared he believed that we should and can be doing a better job. We need to further conduct a cost benefit of every service to see if they will all be kept in house. He also shared the pros and cons of contracting out. It was a glaring fact that there was a need for updated and new technology that could ensure better efficiency both in the office as well as on the street while trucks we out on routes. There will also be a full evaluation of every fee for service to make sure true costs are being covered. It was found that rate disparities and various changes have adversely impacted the health of the fund.
It is still not clear what the final recommendations will be. I suggested that the mission should be not to lose money but obviously not to make money either. We are government and not a for profit business. Our money is taxpayer dollars and if we can create savings/ profit it should equate to a reduction in rates. If we can run the Sanitation Enterprise Fund correctly we should be able to provide and maintain good quality services, plan for maintenance and operations, while ensuring there is a healthy reserve for equipment and emergencies and charged an affordable rate.
I hope you can join us tonight Thursday May 19th at 6PM at our Annual Hurricane Preparedness Forum at our Community Cultural Center 401 SW 3rd Street. If you are new to our area learn all you need to know and meet with our staff and other emergency agencies to have your questions and concerns address. If you have been in a storm and experience it is always great to have a chance to fine tune your plan.
I welcome the opportunity to come out and speak on these issues with your condo or group. As always, please feel free to contact me any time with your questions/concerns and ideas on how to make our city a better place at my office: (954) 457-1318. On my cell/text at: (954) 632-5700. Or visit my web-site at: www.mayorjoycooper.com. If you are heading out of town and want to stay connected to our city issues you can sign up for my weekly update.