By Mayor Joy Cooper
Hallandale Beach - When it comes to watching your money and spending it the best way possible, the budget, for any community, is essential.
The City Commission held its second budget hearing for the fiscal year 2017-18 recently. The first discussion began with the goal to address the reserves of our City. Staff is proposing a 5.1 to 5.3. mills to address these goals. They have also recommended some cuts to services and increased fees to balance the budget. In all, since last budget, the City Manager has closed a $5 million gap without using reserves.
The targeted amount of reserves typically covers 2-6 months over operating costs as a standard. Our reserves currently have a 16 percent buffer at the low end. We have been able to maintain an overall cost of living at 16% over the years. This year we will need to look at increases not to use reserves and balance a budget.
The pension issues are also on the verge of creating problems. There has been a challenge to the cap, negotiated in good faith with our unions. This agreement was to address long term costs. The City Manager will need to negotiate these issues. Annual cost of all pension is over $10 million. Health insurance continues to rise annually and this year, the cost is over $6 million.
The Transportation Fund is balanced, but it was done with a loan to ensure our mini bus could continue. City staff has closed the gap in this fund, but will supply reserves from a general fund and transfer the loan away from the utility account.
Our utility funds are being evaluated for compliance of the bond covenants. We are required to maintain a rate that produces revenue - 1.5 percent over and above to cover operations. We have tried over the years to reduce our water rate.
Our reserves were high in water and we combined water and sewer together. Sewer treatment is more expensive and we have little control over the cost of delivery as we must pay the City of Hollywood. This has been an annual issue. We are doing a study to address infiltration which adds to the cost of treatment.
The proposed rate for water includes increasing the base by 0.76 cents and usage in categories by 0.10 cents. Sewer will be the greater increase at $2.81 at the base and $1.20 in the steps per consumption. This will end up helping with the costs.
Storm water rates have been proposed to increase to replenish reserve funds. An additional $44.22 per month to pay for the SW drainage project. I have asked that the CRA pay for this project, but did not have the votes. I have made it clear that this one time rate will not be supported in year 2018-2019 by me, unless there is a storm water 5-year capitol plan that will show where the money will be spent.
As we have watched, drainage issues are everywhere. We have focused on the most critical areas, where there were repetitive losses. But we need to address other areas. These fixes are quite expensive and that is why you are seeing other areas now having issues. This fee will be monthly and a final vote has not been taken.
Staff is also looking at our sanitation fund and to evaluate partial selling of our franchise. The two components are multi-family and condo. Two years ago, the City rather than increasing rates, we did an evaluation of the sanitation department. This sale can generate approximately $1.5 million dollars up front, but brings with it some caveats. The franchise fee would be increased $19.5 to 22%. That is what we charge to the providers of services within Hallandale Beach. This fee is typically a pass through. Single family is being proposed at increase of $18.87 to $27.87. These rates also have not been finalized. This item will be looked at in what is called summer study.
A summer study is a white paper that will provide the commission with a more in-depth evaluation of all various projects and proposals. There will be eight such studies - including sale of the Ansin Storage Lot, sanitation; landscape maintenance out-sourcing, Human Services/ Community Partnership Grants, Camera Phase in and leasing, new radios for Police and Fire, Transposition Fund and Fleet maintenance.
Please visit our city website at www.cohb.org for more information on this project and on all our meetings and meeting agenda material.
As always please feel free to contact me anytime with your questions concerns and ideas at 954-457-1318 office, cell/text at 954-632-5700 or email me a firstname.lastname@example.org.
I also welcome the opportunity to come to your next meeting to review our budget and other city issues anytime. Call the above number to schedule an appointment.