Thursday, September 09, 2010

This is what I'm talking about

A few days ago, I posted some comments regarding my new property tax bill.
In essence, the City of Hallandale Beach and Broward County have chosen to substantially increase their tax rate instead of trying to adjust their budget to a new reality.

Downgrading and thrift are the way to go. Continuously raising taxes to support an inflexible path of so called "growth" is irresponsible. 
It is sad to observe that citizens' response has been almost inexistent. We are sitting back, while our pockets are being sacked. Broward is our county and Hallandale Beach is our city.
We should be able to make our elected officers  work for us, not against us. 

We are tolerating that, while services provided are diminished and degraded, our taxes go up every year.

This year will mean for many "homestead" beneficiaries, an approximate 10% increase, in a time of zero-inflation. 

Is this ridiculous? Tragic would be more like it. People losing their jobs, their homes; retirees whose savings have been almost wiped out by the economy, shouldn't be confronted with this type of issue.

I am reading today on  which covers Florida West Coast an article about how Venice, Fl. has addressed the issue. A good example to follow.

Venice tax rate held flat

BUDGET: 4-to-3 vote means city will have to use $3 million out of reserves

VENICE, FL.  Despite advertising a potential 29 percent property tax rate increase for the 2010-11 budget, the City Council voted Tuesday to keep the rate flat.  The decision marks a continuation of a decade-long streak of either lowering or maintaining the tax rate.
Property owners will continue to pay 2.77 mills, the equivalent of $2.77 per $1,000 of taxable property value. 

The council must approve the budget and tax rate at a second public hearing Sept. 21.  After two hours of spirited debate, the council voted 4-3 to maintain the current rate.  Council members Emilio Carlesimo, Kit McKeon and Mayor Ed Martin opposed the idea. Council members Sue Lang, John Moore, Jim Bennett and Ernie Zavodnyik voted for keeping the rate the same.
"I fear we are kicking the can down the road," said McKeon, before the vote, expressing concern about dipping into savings to fund the operating budget. "To be fiscally responsible, we have to maintain the proper fund reserve."  But Lang, who is up for re-election along with Zavodnyik, said with the economy struggling, residents cannot pay more. Reading tax statements from residents who have seen their properties decline in value while they are paying more in property taxes, Lang said the council needs to cut spending and use reserves.  "We have a reserve fund" that is in good shape, Lang said. "I would rather have people go and spend that money in our local economy." 

The council will have to use about $3.1 million of its $9.2 million or so in reserves to sustain its $22 million budget for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1. It will collect about $800,000 less in taxes than last year because of declining property values.

 City Manager Isaac Turner has laid off four employees and left jobs unfilled to balance the budget. He expressed concern about deficit spending.  "We are below what your goal is for reserves," Turner said. "We will need to immediately identify where we are going to make that up."  Before the vote, Zavodnyik proposed eliminating city provided health insurance for council members. Carlesimo made a motion to eliminate council member pensions, provided by the state after six years.

City Attorney Bob Anderson said the council could not vote on the measures because they did not advertise them in advance.  Before the vote, some residents urged the council to not raise the property tax rate.  "It's been nothing but increases," said Mike Rafferty, a resident of Bay Indies, the city's largest mobile home community.

He said the county appraised the community about 18 percent higher than last year. A tax rate increase would mean his taxes would go up, he said.  "If you don't want to take it out of a rainy day fund, don't take it out of my pocket," he said. 

Venice Taxpayers League President Gary Budway said the city should have cut the budget across  the board and suggested Venice consider combining its fire department with the county and hiring a city attorney, rather than contracting with Anderson.

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