During a recent Hollywood Beach Business Association meeting, City Manager Dr. Wazir Ishmael gave a presentation on new developments taking place in the city.
There was a presentation on the upcoming budget which is facing a gap. Projections in April showed the city facing a nearly $20 million budget gap. Challenges include an increase of $2.78 million in required annual pension contributions, $6 million in increased health insurance costs, salary increases of $2.9 million, loss of $2.6 million in chapter funds and the loss of the Seminole Compact which involves $900,000.
Ishmael asked all departments and offices of the city to reduce their budgets by five percent for the upcoming fiscal year. To go into next year with more fund balance, the city instituted a hiring freeze for all non-critical positions and a freeze on all non-essential spending.
Ishmael said that a substantial portion of the budget involves pension costs and health insurance costs. There has also been some controversy surrounding the 13th check for pensioners. Ishmael said that new hires are receiving less generous benefits but that the city must continue paying benefits to older and retired personnel. He compared it to slowing down a large ship in the ocean, it’s going to take a long time. Because of Hollywood’s generous pension program, many families have come to rely on those pensions as a source of income. Health care costs for pensioners are also expensive.
It is expected that the property tax rate also known as the millage rate for Fiscal year 2017 will remain the same at 7.4479. This rate has not changed since 2012.
During the meeting, Ishmael said efforts are being made to attract new growth and development. This is an important way to generate more money for Hollywood. A goal is to encourage more people to move to Hollywood and develop new businesses. The city’s beach area and industrial parks are important engines to economic development.
The City and Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) are working together with Broward County to have some of the excess tax dollars generated in the Beach District available to use for infrastructure projects in other parts of Hollywood. Some of these projects include repaving of streets and installation of new sidewalks. Other projects includes the Complete Streets program and improvements to lighting and drainage.
Upcoming budget meetings include:
- In late August, there will be workshop to discuss the proposed operating budget.
- On September 14 at 5:30 p.m., there will be a preliminary public budget hearing.
- On September 28 at 5:30 p.m., there will be a final budget hearing.