Every Resident’s Hard-Earned Dollar Is Important
By Hallandale Beach Mayor, Joy Cooper
September 28, 2023
Over the past months, I have been writing this column informing the residents about our Budget. Our Staff begins the Budget Cycle in early March, and it culminates in a final reading of Ordinances adopting the Tax Rate and Budget at a Formal Public Hearing. On Tuesday, we Adopted the 2023-2024 Budget. I authored this article before the Final Vote. With great certainty I can say we did Adopt “a Budget” the question remains what passed?
Either, it passed at the current Tax Rate of 8.2466 including the Expansion of Road Paving to from 1 million to 500,000 and adding a Project to Clean and Paint the west side of the Hallandale Beach Bridge on A1A or 7.9998 Millage Reduction with or without the projects. At the last Budget Hearing we had a longer debate over the Rate and these items.
The debate after months of forecasts planning and budgeting with a set plan to support that body of work was spurred after two landlords asked for us to remain sensitive to cost increases. While nobody likes to pay Taxes and politicians would love to say they cut Taxes, the devil is always in the details.
I must without hesitation say there is not one commissioner including myself that does not care deeply about every resident’s hard-earned dollar. We make sure we watch every Tax Dollar and execute our Services with deep consideration and respect for the trust that is put in our Service. I need to share information about Taxes before discussing this debate.
Our City Tax is only one part of the Tax Bill. One Mill in Tax Rate raises approximately $9 Million in Revenues in our community based on our values. In a $200-Million-Dollar Budget, Property Taxes are only a portion of City Revenues. $94 Million Dollars are generated in Revenue annually, all in. So, we need to look at the whole picture. Any changes in the Budget can offset all Budget Projections. Less Revenue means more Deficits, which in turn means cuts that impact Service Levels. So, one increase or decrease can change the course of many parts of the Overall Budget. We also never look at just one year.
This year if the Rate were reduced by the suggested amount the Deficit would need to be accounted for through use of Reserves or Budgeted items and would need to be cut to an equal amount. The added projections also would need to come out of Future Budgets as a Deficit.
Currently, the Hallandale Beach Budget is balanced without the use of any Reserves. In addition, we have approved over $80 Million Dollars in Overdue Infrastructure Projects that will be implemented. This is a Good Budget and addresses many needs that if not implemented would directly impact on our community and our ability to provide Services.
I must share that we all have truly been collaborating as a unified Commission with our Staff to bring Fiscal Stability to our City. Since 2021 when we were faced with only $14-Million Dollars in Reserves and Fiscal Insolvency we implemented a strategic five-year plan to stabilize the Budget while planning for many Infrastructure Projects. This year we are still working on what has been a successful plan. Projects have been right on point. This year has been an outlier with a large Property Value Increase. On average projections are at 3 percent not 17.
We have been focused on every component of government. We have made many tough decisions to make sure that we can maintain and deliver Services to our community. We were down to the bones but still the City Manager went in with the goal of Reducing Costs where they could be reduced. We have maintained and in some cases increased the Level Of Service in Departments. We have added programs to generate other revenues.
In June, the City Commission set a Tentative Millage Rate and had vetted many necessary Budget Items and Projects. For years we have not played games with the Millage Rate. Many cities will set a higher Tentative Rate than reduce it later.
While setting the Tentative Millage Rate I asked about setting it to 8 Mills. I had two reasons. At that point in time, we had Unaudited Reserves well over the 16% target with General Fund Reserves of over $24 Million Dollars. If we had rolled back to 8 we would have ended up well over our targeted amount. The other main issue that I considered before suggesting a Millage Rate Reduction was the Current Tax Rate prevents both Safe Neighborhood Districts from utilizing their Max Rate of 2 Mills to borrow Capital for Improvements. The suggestion, while not a large Reduction, did not garner support from my colleagues.
Fast forward to August with Property Values released. Reserve increase to almost $28 Million. So, one has the right to ask the same question I raised in June. Do we lower the Tax Rate? The catch is we still have a Pending Lawsuit for over $4.5 Million from the firing of City Manager Rosemond. What will next year look like? Increase in Values? Decrease due to Economic Conditions? Increases in GPI Governmental Cost of doing business? We still have room. The major question is do we say the course? Last week we held a workshop for two hours with the same question being asked on. Do we stay on the course or go to 7.9998 Mills? To be continued…….
As always, please feel free to contact me anytime with your questions, concerns, and ideas to make our City a better place. I am available at: email@example.com. Or at: firstname.lastname@example.org. On my Office Number at: (954) 457-1318. On my Cell/Text at: (954) 632-5700. You can always visit my Facebook and follow me at: Mayor Joy Cooper.