Broward County Mayor Marty Kiar struck an upbeat tone when he delivered the 2016 State of the County Address during a recent meeting. Kiar said he believes the County’s economic outlook is strong, stable and filled with optimism as 2017 nears.
The outgoing Mayor said that in 2016, Commissioners dropped the property tax rate, opened new county buildings to better serve the public and completed several projects and programs to strengthen the economy and protect the environment.
“Broward County had the highest annual job growth rate in Florida,” Kiar said. “We added 8,700 jobs in trade, transportation and utilities. The financial services industry added an additional 3,500 jobs in the past year. Overall, job creation grew by 4.4 percent.” Unemployment was also lower than the year before, and at 4.6 percent is the lowest in the tri-county area.
At the end of this fiscal year, the Broward Commission reduced the property tax ad valorem rate by 1% to give homeowners with a homestead exemption a tax break. The Commission also approved an additional $25,000 homestead exemption to help low-income senior citizens.
The balanced Fiscal Year 2017 budget totaled $4.7 billion with major future investments planned to expand and improve the Fort Lauderdale Hollywood International Airport and Port Everglades and finance numerous capital projects that will provide jobs for years to come and increase the tax rolls, Kiar said.
He also emphasized good news for the tourism industry. Passengers arriving and departing from Fort Lauderdale Hollywood International Airport grew 8.7% in the first six months of the year with an estimated 29 million people expected to travel through the airport by year’s end. Emirates Airlines and British Airways will soon be offering flights from Broward County.
“The first scheduled commercial U.S. flight to Cuba in more than 50 years took place on JetBlue to Santa Clara this year and soon 100 weekly flights to Cuba will be offered on four different airlines, more than any other airport in the United States,” Kiar said.
Broward County’s Port Everglades set records twice this year with more than 55,885 cruise passengers traveling to and from the seaport in a single day, according to Kiar. On the cargo side, Port Everglades again exceeded 1 million T-E-U’s for the third year in a row, maintaining its status as Florida’s No. 1 container port.
In 2016, Kiar said Broward County had the highest hotel occupancy in Florida during the first six months of the year. For the months of May, July and September, Broward had the highest hotel occupancy in history. Broward bed tax collections increased 6.2% year-over-year to nearly $61 million.
Other accomplishments Kiar noted include the opening of the $16.5 million Animal Care and Adoption Center. There was a groundbreaking for the $20 million Broward Addiction and Recovery Center and completion of the Pembroke Road/I-75 overpass connecting the cities of Miramar and Pembroke Pines.