Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Broward County Service Cuts

September 11, 2008 By Henry B. Nathan

Here we go again. I just read in the papers today that cuts in service in Broward County are going ahead no matter how unpopular they are.

This is business as usual in Florida, where there is always a way around laws and good sense. Legislature mandated budget cuts? Cities can always find a way to circumvent them.

Lower assessment values due to real estate debacle? No problem, cities will get around the lower property values, by just pumping up their millage rate. Remember: the equation is: millage time assessed value. So either part of the equation can be raised to make your taxes higher.

Still not enough money? Cities and Counties will just cut services. Less parks, less educational services, less seniors transportation, and so forth.

And a last recourse? Just charge the property owner for services traditionally free.

All of this is been used alternatively by one or another city or county.

There might have been some savings. But nothing substantial. Nothing essential.

Our mini-cities with their duplicated services and ridiculous bureaucracy are a large part of the problems. I don’t have access or enough time for the research. But I would be curious to know how many police departments and fire departments and water departments, city commissioners, city managers we can count in the Tri-County area of Palm Beach, Broward and Dade, which population doesn’t even measure to that of a large world metropolitan area like London, or Tokyo.

I know that this will not sound as music to the ears of the concerned parties. But it’s something that will have to be addressed one day or another.

Generous pension plans, rampant bureaucracies, flamboyant city halls, are a luxury that has to be reassessed. At stake is home ownership for the common Floridian and perhaps the dynamism of our whole economy.

This is the article in the Sun-Sentinel, that triggered my comments.

Despite residents' protests, Broward County forges ahead with cuts in service

Officials defend reductions as necessary to close budget gap

By Scott Wyman - September 10, 2008

Joggers and softball players protested park closures. Seniors and low-income residents questioned the loss of community shuttle buses.

Residents turned out en masse Tuesday night to protest spending cuts made in Broward County government to guarantee property tax relief this fall. Despite the concerns, county commissioners held firm on Broward's most sweeping rollback in decades.

Parks will be closed most Tuesdays. Community bus routes with low ridership will cease. Libraries will open later and close earlier. Help for the mentally ill, the homeless and victims of domestic abuse will be curtailed.

"Nobody likes cutting library hours or closing parks, but we are trying to make decisions on being cost effective," Broward Mayor Lois Wexler said.

The average homeowner should save $96 on the county government portion of the tax bill. The county taxes paid on a home valued at $186,450, the average in Broward, will drop from $763 last year to $667 this year.

Commissioners had to fill an $87 million gap in their $3.6 billion budget because of the decline in real estate values this year and the change to the state constitution that doubles the homestead exemption. They will give final approval to the budget later this month.

As part of the cuts, community bus routes used by fewer than seven passengers an hour will be eliminated. Commissioners said they preferred cutting the shuttles rather than major bus routes, but agreed to ask cities if they want to take over the neighborhood routes.

Davie residents along Griffin Road said the loss of their shuttle would leave them with no way to go to the grocery store or work. They unsuccessfully tried to persuade the county to reconsider the cuts using ridership numbers since gas prices increased.

"We aren't close to anything at all — there is no supermarket, no drugstore, no clothing store," said Karen Howard, a resident of the Griffin Gardens neighborhood. "So if we lose our bus because of the budget or whatever and you don't have a family member, you lose all your ability to get about."

Some park users also complained about the decision to close on Tuesday and eliminate early openings. Commissioners chose to close parks on Tuesday except during school breaks because that is the day with the lowest use.

"The end result is not the trimm ing of the fat, but the trimming of the lean," Fort Lauderdale resident Christopher Brennan said. "On 365 days a year, there are taxpaying Americans using the park system."

Henry B. Nathan is a Florida Realtor at United Realty Group Inc.Visit my website: you can search for Aventura Condos, Florida Condos,

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