Taxes, Services & Infrastucture: It has become very costly to live in South Florida

By Hallandale Beach Mayor, Joy Cooper

September 15, 2022

Last week, I wrote about the taxes here and around the State. In the article, I explained about Save our Homes and the Truth in Millage. I do not want to be redundant, but I believe it is imperative that residents understand that the Roll Back Rate is simply a past action by State Legislators to suggest that City Governments should run on fixed costs. In other words, when property values go up, taxes should go down. In the real world it does not work that way. Please visit the Sun Times Website to read the full article - https://www.southfloridasuntimes.com/news/tax-season%3A-there-is-a-misconception-that-we-can-simply-cut-costs

In the article, I explained that cities just like businesses are also subject to increased costs of operations. Our cost increases are well over 10% since we purchase different types of services and products, the typical basket of household goods that are calculated in the CPI. Unlike businesses, we do not have the luxury of picking and choosing the services we provide like: Police, Fire, Emergency Services, Water/Sewer/Stormwater Management, Code Enforcement, Building Services, Public Right Of Way and Maintenance to name a few. We also have to provide the underground and above ground infrastructure to deliver those services.

On Monday, September 12th, 2022, we held two extremely important Public Meetings. We held the first Public Hearing on our City’s Budget and Millage Rates. The Millage Rate was increased to 8.2466. This represents an increase of 1.2466 Mills to generate $5.9 Million Dollars to balance our Budget without using Reserves and to provide Services at the same level. It also provides financial resources to repair the Infrastructure.

The Millage Rate to pay for our Park GO Bond decreased from 0.5377 to 0.4946. There are two Special Districts, Golden Isles Rates stayed the same at 1.0934 and Three Islands also stayed the same at .6600.

During the meeting, I realized that many newer residents may not be aware that the trim notice they receive is not just City Taxes. It includes the County, the School Board and the Hospital District. It was also clear that when comparing City to City, it is not just about the Tax Rates. It is also about the size and type of the Tax Base. The other key is the charges for the Services. One City may have a lower Tax Rates but higher fees.

We did have approximately 15 residents that came to participate in the meeting and three speakers spoke. Obviously, they spoke against raising taxes. As a Commission, we certainly do not want to raise taxes, but we do have to keep our City safe and running. We are all empathic to the fact that there are some residents that are struggling to make ends meet. We also understand that many Non-Homesteaded owners are now reconsidering keeping their second homes.

Understanding these struggles, our CRA has approved a Rental Assistance Program that is available to residents that live within the CRA boundaries that include 14th Avenue and West. While we do not have this available East of 14th Avenue, we do have Emergency Funding available at the Hepburn Center Human Services Department, located at 750 Northwest 8th Avenue. Our Social Workers can also assist by pointing you to resources available from other agencies. To find out more, please attend the kickoff meeting this Saturday, September 17th, 2022 at 11:00 a.m. at the Center.

It has become very costly to live in South Florida. All properties and businesses are being faced with increased cost of materials, cost for staffing, fuel and energy costs as well as the big one, insurance costs. We also understand that 40 and 50 Year Safety Repairs must be performed or buildings can be faced with red tags. There is no silver bullet and Local Governments can try to help but we also have bills to pay. We need our State and National Partners to now step up to the plate.

Another Major Meeting was held on Monday afternoon to discuss our Infrastructure needs and how we will be able to pay for replacing Water/Sewer and Stormwater Pipes. There are over $358 Million Dollars of underground pipes that need replacement. Of that $180 Million is being funded by Revenue Bonds and another $19 Million will be funded by Grants. $117 Million will still need to be funded but we are targeting the most critical. Those that are 45 Years and older. The other portion is at 25 Years old.

Over the past year, there were over 510 water main breaks with 35 resulting in Boiled Water Notices. This is unacceptable. Like many Condos, we cannot kick the can down the road. I will go into further detail over the next few articles, but it is important that our residents understand that we need to Fund these Projects through Revenue Bonds. These types of Bonds are tied to Water/Sewer and Stormwater Fees.

Our Staff has been working with a consultant that has specialized in this field for over 30 years. They have developed a financial plan that includes a phased increase in these Utility Fees. The Commission fully agreed on the plan and Rate Increases.

The new Rate starting next year will be as follows. If you are not using any Water, the Base will go from 42.61 to 52.35. If you are a larger consumer and use 10,000 a month, the average bill will go from 101.96 to 119.00. In addition, the Stormwater Rates which have not been studied or raised for years will be a flat rate of $8 Dollars per month. Over the next five years, we will be covering the Bond Debt by increases of 17% year 2024,10% year 2025, 7.5% year 2026, 5.25% year 2027 and 3.75% in 2028. Since this is a Long Term Plan, the Rates will be reviewed and Rates per type of user may change.

Please know, I would welcome the opportunity to come out and discuss these important topics with your Condominium owners.

As always, I am available for your questions, concerns and ideas to help make our City a better place. Please feel free to reach out at my office: (954) 457-1318. On my cell/text at: (954) 632-5700. Or E-mail me at: jcooper@cohb.org.