Where The Bucks Stop: Local Governments Are Adopting Budgets And Tax Rates For The 2022/2023 Fiscal Year

By Hallandale Beach Mayor, Joy Cooper

August 11, 2022

This is the time of year when local Governments are adopting their Budgets and setting their Tax Rates. I always like to share with readers that Governments look at our operations like a business, they watch every dollar and strive to control costs. With this said we are quite different. Even in the terms of households we are different but similarly we need to provide life sustaining items. Terms like “living within our means” or “what product lines are not performing well, let’s cut them” truly do not fit in the government model.

Each level of Government is different. States provide specific services and operate as a pass through for many services. The State receives dollars through many financial vehicles but in Florida, mainly Sales Tax and other fees for services. County Governments receive Sales Taxes but also collect Property Taxes. They also have fees for services and other shared Tax Revenues. These Governments are not required to provide direct services per se, to each household.

They provide large scale Transportation Systems, Court Systems, Jail Systems and Libraries for example. The services depend on the Government's mission as established by the Charter. Services are also regulatory in nature; Others are pass-throughs and some are adopted by Law. The School Board for example, implements everything pertaining to schools and receives Direct Taxes and State Taxes.

Municipal Governments are required to provide Police, Fire Services, Emergency Medical Services, Water and Sewer Services and Trash Removal. We also implement Building and Code Requirements. We are also required to maintain our Public Realm. This can include: Parks, roads and sidewalks, depending upon if the City solely owns the property. Local City Government is truly the closest to the people. We touch everyone's daily lives. Our responsibilities are required by the City Charter and most are required to live.

There are two ways we can provide services. We can directly provide them or contract out for them. Either way, we must provide them and we are where the buck stops, figuratively and literally. If your water is not on, you are calling us, not a County Commissioner or the Governor. If we cannot pay to provide water, we are all in trouble. That means our business is broke.

I am oversimplifying but it truly comes down to these basic services. We cannot decide that we will not provide water, because we are required to. We will have to enter into a contract with a private company or partner with another City. But we will have to charge our residents and they will have to pay for it.

To run a City, you also need a Staff. Like in any Business, Staff is one of our largest assets and one of our greatest expenses. The biggest expense is paid for through Ad Valorem Taxes (Property Tax). Our City’s Tax Rate is now 7 percent. This rate is simply not enough to pay our expenses. Our Staff and Commission have been working hard over the past years to set in place a Financial Stability Plan.

Within the plan we have to make sure we can maintain the level of service of both police and fire and other vital services while maintaining an adequate reserve, we must increase our tax rate. The new proposed Rate is 8.2 Mills. While the 1.2 increase seems like a lot it will only generate $6 Million Dollars. This will also ensure that we are not utilizing any Reserves. Since 2016, our Reserve went down from $16 Million to $10 Million, the lowest ever seen. We will however, be able to build our Reserves back up to a Sustainable level, projected to between the Current Rate of $17 Million to $22 Million.

I must share that we have not discussed the Rosemond case, which is still on appeal, but the jury’s verdict was for $4 Million Dollars. We are also paying over $1.2 Million Dollars on the BSO Contract. Currently, we will be able to maintain the Fire/EMS Staffing levels but without bringing the management of these services to our City’s next Budget and they may need to be reduced.

Property Taxes are the biggest change this year. There are other minor changes that I will cover in next week’s article.

As all of our families and students are gearing up for the new school year, I was proud to lend my support to this weekend’s event hosted by Humanity First and our dear friends of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. As always, they had a great event. If you missed it, I am co-hosting another event at Foster Park this weekend, on Saturday, August 13th, 2022 located at 609 Foster Avenue, Hallandale Beach, Florida 33009.

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 to me at my Office: (954) 457-1318. On my Cell/Text at: (954) 632-5700. Or Email at: jcooper@cohb.org.