By Mayor Joy Cooper
Hallandale Beach - When budget cuts are made, there are many that affected - in a major way!
Budget workshops are right around the corner in Hallandale Beach and everyone should be very concerned over the direction the City is going in. Over the course of the past months, there has been a push to make cuts. The question becomes how these cuts will impact our City.
There has been this negativity spread about our City and past budgets. Within those conversations, there is no connectivity to what our community and others have gone through over the past years, the recession put a real stress on every budget. At that time, we were forced by the statute to reduce our millage rate to 4.9818. This rate was kept in place for two years. In 2010, we did increase it to 5.900 since the 4.9818 rate was not sustainable.
We have gradually reduced the rate to 5.1918. The one fee that was increased in a large percentage was fire, this fee is a bond for our fire station.
Even with these tight budget restraints, we paid our pension liabilities and continued to address infrastructure. It is a fact that we used reserves at varying levels in some years. The discussion is lumping all reserves in one pot. The City has general fund reserves and enterprise fund reserves.
Enterprise funds are for service such as water, sewer, waste water and solid waste. Fees provide the revenue to support these operations. Our water fund was combined with our wastewater fund a few years ago, the water fund was stable but waste water always fluctuates. We provide water, but must pay Hollywood for waste water. Once a year, they provide what is called a true up. In some years, this amount can be upward to a million dollars. We are still waiting to receive the white papers on this to see if there will need to be an increase and how much.
I had asked the storm water also be added, but it was not recommended. In my opinion, these services are naturally linked and complete the “water” cycle. In the future, we will see more of a demand on storm water to address flooding. We need to continue to ensure that we have a reserve in this fund.
The question becomes; how much do we need to keep of your taxpayer’s money in reserve? For the years that I have been on the commission, the City Manager has targeted 3-5% in enterprise funds. I have yet to hear from our new City Manager with his target. I cannot see the need for a much greater sum than over 5%. In addition, if there are increases needed, how long will they stay in place? Currently there are no capital projects scheduled.
We are still working on 14th Avenue project which is already budgeted for. Diana Drive will be moving forward regretfully, with the old design that removed many of the residents existing parking spots. The Fire Station is under construction and behind schedule due to the contractor and changes made removing amenities that now must be put back in.
Our Parks projects are moving forward, but also are behind schedule. I have been assured that they will get back up to speed. The next design projects to come forward for approvals will be Ingalls Park and the Golden Isles Park Tennis Center.
Solid waste is the other reserve fund that needs to be addressed. Approximately two years ago, we conducted a study into our operations. One of the recommendations was to sell off our roll out business. Everyone I speak to, has great concerns about this reducing the service. I have been finding that service levels with a private contractor is not all it is cut out to be. We can sell the franchise but the residents will still be paying the private rate plus the franchise fee.
We are also waiting for the analysis of this possibility. I have and will continue to question our ability to provide service at the same rate, if not better, since we are in the people serving business, not for providing business. The last report also included an increase in the rates that was not adopted. I am sure that we must increase the rate either way.
The largest reserve fund is our general fund reserves. Our operating budget is $70 million dollars. Typically, the City has had a target not to drop below 15%. As of last budget with the project use of reserve, the fund would be at 21%. I have again not heard what the City Manager’s target is for the fund is at this point. When asked, he did not answer.
I have and will continue to have that old philosophy that you get what you pay for. I would rather support a tax increase rather than have draconian cuts that will impact our City in a negative manor. Currently, the moral in the City is the lowest it has been in years. We have great employees and they deserve to be treated fairly and equally. Currently, their health care is in jeopardy and they know it. They will be facing huge deductibles that will impact their families. What is worse, some are not even sure if they will have their jobs. Less employees means, that services will not be better. It means they may be slower or simply cut.
Your voices need to be heard. Let us know what you think.
As always, please feel free to contact me anytime with your questions/concerns and ideas at my office: (954) 457-1318 office. On my cell/text at: (954) 632-5700. Or e-mail me at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
I also welcome the opportunity to come to your next meeting to review your budget and other City issues, anytime. Call the above number to schedule an appointment.