“The city has embraced a vision based on fiscal responsibility, accountability, high ethical standards, and quality delivery of services. It is a vision that rewards excellence, not mediocrity, and, above all else, places the people of Fort Lauderdale first.”
With this vision in mind, do you think the City Commission’s proposed budget cuts on essential city services like park maintenance, housing the homeless and supplying jobs is putting the people of Fort Lauderdale first?
On August 28, 2018, the Sun Sentinel reported on the City Commission’s plans to cut $5.1 million from services allocated for essential city services and maintenance. The proposed plan comes months before the 2019 budget goes into effect and puts the quality of life in Fort Lauderdale at huge risk for the next five years.
Let’s backtrack to 2012.
Six years ago the City of Fort Lauderdale started borrowing excess (unspent) money from the water-sewer budget to balance the city’s general budget. This decision kept our property taxes from increasing for 12 years and helped maintain years of positive downtown development. Borrowing money from the water-sewer budget made sense (and still does).
The water-sewer fund operates like a business, separate from the city’s general budget, and supported by customer payments. The excess money comes from an inability to spend. City management has projects in development and others planned (with funds properly allocated for each) so a portion of whatever goes unspent (i.e., millions of dollars) is diverted to the city’s general budget to help fund necessary services without having to raise property taxes or make budget cuts that could hinder essential city services.
Recently, the City Commission decided it was time to end this practice of borrowing. However, the only way they can achieve this and still stay on track for the 2019 budget is to cut spending.
The city planned to take $1.2 million from this sector, which is set aside to fund city projects, like initiatives to house the homeless, and those that provide valuable community experiences like the Winterfest Inc. boat parade, Summer Youth Employment Program, and Riverwalk Fort Lauderdale Inc.
Another portion of the $5.1 million will be taken from government positions that have been open for months. Certain vacancies for lifeguards and police officers will remain open. In fact, the city commission says there are only 6 confirmed positions that can be cut, which is a mere fraction of the proposed cuts. The city would lose more than it would gain by doing this.
The last area under attack and perhaps the most important is our parks! Of the $9 million budget for park improvements, maintenance, services, and development, the City Commission wants to take the remaining dollar amount. This is reckless and greatly jeopardizes the quality of life for Fort Lauderdale residents.
According to the City, “Over the past 9 years the city of Fort Lauderdale has received international recognition for being a high-energy community with a fierce passion for protecting our quality of life while promoting powerful economic development initiatives. Within the past 9 years, 17 new city parks have opened, 25 city parks refurbished, and ‘boundless’ playgrounds were created to provide engaging, healthy exercise for people of all ages and abilities.”
In fact, city officials, like City Manager Lee Feldman, explain that there is no immediate cause to create a monetary bottleneck by enforcing budget cuts. Not for the 2019 budget, at least. Furthermore, Lee explains that the water-sewer budget and maintenance record is currently sustainable, providing the services needed to maintain and improve our current infrastructure needs.
Some officials believe the urgency to wean the city’s general budget off of water-sewer support is unnecessary and potentially damaging. Especially considering that with the increase in property values, the city is expected to receive an additional $10.5 million in property taxes for the general budget.
With ongoing development and rising demand to live in Fort Lauderdale, this profit margin will likely increase in coming years. Yet another reason why this proposed $5.1 million dollar budget cut right before the 2019 budget goes into effect is so short-sighted and reckless!
What do you think?
Should the City Commission take away from our parks and quality of living for the next 5 years to balance the budget or should they plan for a more realistic solution next year?
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