By Mayor Joy Cooper
HALLANDALE BEACH - When it comes to the city budget, there is so much to account for
As budget season is upon us, it is important to understand what services our city provides and why. Every entity, be it a city, a household or company needs a budget and it should be followed. Quite often you will hear catch phrases including “live within our means” when setting a budget for the next year. This is great if I am running a home and buying services. Cities are not 100% the same as a household - nor a company. We are a government entity tasked with an obligation to provide and protect our cities. This obligation is referenced as a home rule.
We do not just provide services, we also buy them when it is fiscally prudent. When a crisis happens like a job loss or medical expense, it can be devastating to one’s home budget. Cities can have major expenses as well. A garbage truck, for example, caught fire and we had to replace it a few years back. Items like this can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Just like when you try to plan ahead and watch every penny, so do we. So live within your means is only a half-truth when it comes to cities. We are mandated to provide community sustaining services to our residents and businesses. We also have to maintain services and an infrastructure that provides these services. We have never kicked the can down that road. We said that we will remain steadfast in maintaining reasonable tax and fee rate structure.
Does City budgeting begin with a realistic approach to what services we provide? How do we deliver them? And can we do it better, faster and cheaper? We evaluate our performance to industry standards and our internal performance matrix. The level of services residents demand, need and want is also important. The quality of the services we provide is also critical. Do we want to be cheapest or the safest and best?
Many critics like to suggest we only take a zero based budget approach. Some suggest a programmatic budget. The other alternative is performance based. In reality, it needs to be all of the above. Every year, we know we will already have long term liabilities on the books. These are pension obligations and loans on infrastructure. We also know that we will be providing life sustaining services; police, fire, building services, sanitation, water services and all required administrative services. We also know that our residents want parks, transit options and others need social services. This is where hard budget decisions come into play.
To know where you are going, you need to know where you came from. When you get to an intersection, you need to decide which road to take. This is similar to the budget concept. We take a break to evaluate our course and then put in place a budget plan for the journey ahead. We can continue on our strategic path, adjust it, stop or go backwards. In my book, the last two are not even options.
I would like to provide a snap shot of our current city statistics. Our city has grown from 36,460 in 1980 to 38,632 (estimated 2013). These new residents increase the level of services needed, this means our budget has grown. With that said, we have not increased in land size, so what we do in regards to devolvement and community redeveloping is critical to our tax base.
We have 41% percent land that is residential and approximately 38% which is commercial. The rest includes parks, water, transit and governmental. This means 79% of the land in our 4.4 square miles is taxable. The taxes we collect are based on the use and values from the property appraiser less exemptions. The taxable values times our tax rate of 5.1918 combined with special revenue funds, shared revenues, franchise and utility service taxes, licenses, permits and other operational revenues, creates revenues of $56 million dollars. These funds are our general fund and are mainly used for police, fire, technology, public works administration, human services, city administration, city attorney, city clerk, human resources and parks and recreation.
In addition to the general fund, we have what are called enterprise funds. These include; water, sewer, storm water, sanitation, marina. The revenue to provide these services in part are from fees. The overall enterprise budget is $29 million dollars. There are also special funds which include; police training, law enforcement trust fund, transportation, safe neighborhood district, police outside services and capital projects. All of these funds can only be used for their intended purposes.
Our overall budget last year with all funds was $93 million dollars. This was a reduction from $102 million. As I stated earlier, we do make sure that we are providing the services our residents demand while watching every dollar. Last year, we reduced the budget, provided the same or increased the level of services and did not use any surplus funds. It should be noted that we have $20 million in general fund surplus which equals 35% of our operating budget. All of our enterprise funds include surplus funds too.
Over the next few weeks, I will be addressing the services we provide currently and at what level. As I have written, it is important for all residents to really understand how cities operate. This way, you can certainly become part of the process. Next week the police and fire.
Have a wonderful and safe 4th of July Weekend!
As always, feel free to contact me anytime by cell/text at: (954) 632-5700 anytime. Or on my office number at: (954) 457-1318. I am always available. You can also e-mail me at: Joy@mayorjoycooper.com or Jcooper@cohb.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.