Hollywood considers 11 percent increase
Get out your wallets. It’s going to start costing more to live and work in Hollywood as the city grapples to close its $25 million budget gap.
BY CARLI TEPROFF
Here’s how you’ll likely be doing it:
Paying more in taxes.
Paying more for docking your boat or riding in an ambulance.
Paying to attend a city-sponsored event, such as the annual candy-cane drop, or the weekly dancing under the stars nights.
On Thursday, commissioners proposed a tax increase and increase in firefees that amounts to 11 percent.
Commissioner Beam Furr said he “knew it was coming.”
“We’ve cut almost everything we could cut,” he said. “We need extra revenue to fill the pothole.”
In May, the commission was told the city was facing a $10.3 million deficit this fiscal year, and a $25 million gap for the upcoming year.
Since getting the news, the commissioners have declared a financial emergency, laid off 18 general employees, cut salaries 7.5 percent for employees and 12.5 percent for police and fire fighters, and accepted the city manager's resignation.
Instead of more cuts, now the city, the third largest in Broward County, is looking for ways to generate money.
“The focus is to restore financial stability,” said Matthew Lalla, the city’s director of the city’s finance and information technology department, at the commission’s first budget workshop Thursday. “We are left with increasingly difficult budget choices. All of the manageable options have been exhausted.”
Next year’s proposed budget is about $341 million, which is about $11 million less than this year’s. The general fund, which pays for most of the city’s operational expenses including salaries for employees, is about $167 million, which is about $7 million less.
Going into next fiscal year, the city will have about $3.78 million in its reserves, less than half required. That prohibits the city from borrowing any money for any projects, such as road maintenance.
Lalla said by increasing taxes from this year’s rate of $6.71 per $1,000 of assessed property value to $7.4479 per $1,000, the city can begin to rebuild its rainy day fund.
What does this mean for the taxpayer?
Take the average Hollywood homesteaded property valued at $94,062. This year the homeowner paid $643 in taxes; next year it will go up to $701.
Also included in the working proposal: increasing the fire assessment fee — paid by property owners for fire services — $30, to a total of $189.
The commissioners also discussed adding an ambulance fee, that would generate $1.3 million and increasing dockage fees that would generate as much as $47,000.
Another potential money-maker for the city: Adding more billboards. City leaders discussed leasing land Hollywood owns close to Interstate 95 for companies who want to get their message out there.
Commissioners are also considering turning some full-time jobs into part time.
Mayor Peter Bober said that if taxing the city’s residents means that the city will begin to build its rainy day fund, then he is in favor of it.
But he added that the city needs to take the summer to look at more ways to generate revenue.
“Certainly I’d like to avoid that kind of tax increase if at all possible,” he said.
Vice Mayor Patricia Asseff said she was depressed with the news of a potential tax hike.
“The impact of raising taxes right now could be devastating for a lot of our residents,” she said.
Asseff said she hasn’t ruled out other options including selling city owned property, renegotiating franchise fees and cutting back on city events including concerts and holiday celebrations.
“We can’t be giving things away on the backs of our employees,” said Asseff, who said that city may consider charging for some of its events.
Hollywood residents including Charlotte Greenbarg, who is active in the Lake section homeowners association and several other citizens groups, said a tax increase is not the way to rebuild the city’s finances.
“Tax increases only make the economy worse,” she said.