Council votes 5-0 to approve budget
The city has approved its 2019-2020 budget, and, like your personal budget, we’re spending only when we need it.
City council members, including me, have the final say on the budget. It’s our biggest task as elected officials. We started working on it back in July – estimating what our revenues would be – and gave final approval on Sept. 18.
Your tax rate, of 5.80 mills, remains the same, but your tax bill might go up, because your property value went up. (Total value of Plantation property rose 6.05 percent, by the way.) The city tax portion of my overall bill, for example, increased from $1,396 to $1,428.
Let’s first talk about what we’re spending our money on, then I’ll circle back with some overall thoughts on the city budget process.
Public works: The signature addition to our city this year, to me, is a new Beast Chipper, a vital piece of equipment that turns tree trimmings into mulch. (And heaven knows, we have trees!) The old one, purchased in 2001, has more than 4,000 hours of use and requires frequent repairs. It will cost us $555,532. Public Works is also adding a GIS Analyst/Collector, who will be shared with Parks and Recreation.
Information technology: A web development project and system upgrades. (I believe we really need to improve the process of some of our transactions with residents.)
Public safety: More police taser guns, improving our fleet of police vehicles, and 30 sets of bunker gear for the fire department. We also have to pay some for an increase in School Resource Officers, although the school board and state/county money covers most of it.
Parks and Recreation: Shade structures for parks, a mobile light tower, improvements at various parks and security cameras for three of our most-used facilities. There are also more events, most notably a city-run Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration.
Personnel: Health-care costs for our employees have gone up, so we will have to budget more for that than last year. Hourly employees, at Mayor Lynn Stoner’s suggestion, will receive a raise that is $1 per hour for most workers.
All that money comes from what is called the “general fund,” a pool of money that really serves as what you and I would think of as the budget. This year expenditures total $112 million. The total budget is $234 million, but that includes money already committed, such as employee pensions.
City officials, during the budget presentation, noted that your property, “ad valorem” tax, pays just under half of the general fund money; we expect to collect about $54 million in property taxes this year. I use “expect” because not everyone pays up. The rest of our budget funding comes from permits, fees, special taxes and miscellaneous sources.
Plantation voters also passed a $60 million bond in November 2016. We have three years to spend that money, and this year we have about $39.5 million budget this year. That breaks down to $9 million for public safety, $13 million for parks and $17 million for Public Works/Stormwater projects
And, as an aside, please note that on your tax bill that city taxes make for about one-fourth of your overall bill.
Take me, for example. My home had a market value of $463,450 according to Property Appraiser Marty Kiar’s office. After Save Our Homes/Portability and homestead exemptions, my taxable amount was $240,780.
My overall tax bill is $5,288.99. I will pay $1,054 in school taxes, $1,351 in county taxes and $1,428 in city taxes. The other $1,300 or so is spread around elsewhere.
A quick review on the procedure in Plantation: The mayor’s office prepares the budget, with input from department heads, who, follow the Plantation tradition of being allowed to ask for no more of an increase than the percentage reflected in the Consumer Price Index. The council then has two hearings and the budget must be approved by at least 75 percent of us. That means a 4-1 vote would make it, but a 3-2 would not. We voted 5-0 this time.
I also want to point out that almost every item on the budget is not a surprise. Department heads are required to have a five-year plan, mapping out big items they may be needing in the future and spacing out when we purchase them. That plan is updated, and shared with administration and anyone else who wants to know, including you. Feel free to contact any department head directly if you have a question and they’ll communicate with you as appropriate.
This newsletter originates on NickSortal.com and is shared via various platforms. The best way to get it is to subscribe to my Facebook page: www.Facebook.com/NickSortalPlantationCityCouncil. Sharing is encouraged. My email is NSortal@Plantation.org and my phone is 954-498-5337.