Thursday, July 14, 2011

Broward County expected to keep tax rate the same

Broward County expected to keep tax rate the same

Broward’s budget recommendations, which will be submitted Friday, include keeping the tax rate the same, restoring library hours and avoiding furloughs for employees.

Unlike last year, Broward County residents won’t have to brace for cuts to services like park hours and bus routes, under a proposal by the county administrator.
On Friday, County Administrator Bertha Henry will submit her recommendations for the 2011-2012 budget year, but a preliminary report from her office indicates the county’s financial shape is faring better than it did last year.
Last year, facing an $80 million shortfall, commissioners voted to cut bus routes, reduce library hours and impose employee furloughs.
Despite a projected $20 million gap in the upcoming fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1, bus, park and library services will remain largely untouched.
In fact, the county is proposing reopening six of its regional libraries on Sunday, and public employees may not have to face another five-day furlough.
“We’re doing a little bit better,” said County Commissioner Barbara Sharief, whose district includes Miramar, Pembroke Pines, Weston, Southwest Ranches and Hallandale Beach. “We’re still working with less, but we’ve been able to weather through some tough times this past year.”
To address the $20 million hole, Henry’s preliminary proposal includes nominal cuts across county departments — $126, 000 saved by converting full-time lifeguards into part-time positions, $62,000 slashed by eliminating 10 parks vehicles from the fleet and a combined $130,000 in savings by closing the live animal exhibit at Long Key Nature Center in Davie, reducing trash pick up at two parks and reducing the use of lake fountains.
Kayla Olsen, the county’s budget director, said the budget gap for the upcoming year is “significantly less” than last year because the county’s tax roll didn’t drop as much as it has over the past three years.
This year, property values dropped 1.6 percent in Broward County, and in an optimistic sign, some cities — including Pembroke Pines, Weston and Plantation — saw slight gains in their overall property values.
Under Henry’s proposal the county’s tax rate would remain at $5.55 for every $1,000 of a property’s taxable value.
Whether a taxpayer will see an increase or decrease in their tax bill compared to last year depends on whether their property values have gone up or down.
While the County Commission must sign off on the budget before Oct. 1 — which marks the start of the next budget year — they’ve been mulling over the numbers and hashing out details during a series of summer budget workshops.
The public will have the opportunity to chime in on the budget, during two public hearings scheduled for Sept. 13 and 27.

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