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Broward County Commissioners Reach Agreement on FY 2011 Budget

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The Broward County Board of County Commissioners has reached an agreement and finalized the Fiscal Year 2011 budget. The property tax millage rate is set at 5.553.

For the majority of Broward County homeowners (65 percent) that means a reduction in the county portion of the property tax bill of approximately $147. The average homeowner with the Save Our Home Differential (35 percent) will see an increase in the County portion of their property tax bill of about $40 total for the year. Since 2007, Broward Commissioners have made more than $220 million in budget cuts. For more than a decade the property tax millage rate in Broward County has been reduced or remained the same.

Broward County Commissioner Lois Wexler changed her vote and broke the deadlock that had stalled passage of the FY 2011 budget, but only after building consensus for additional budget cuts that she had brought forward totaling just under $6 million. Commissioners were previously deadlocked with a 4-4 vote that prevented the final passage of a budget.

The reductions included an additional cut of 4 percent from the Broward County Commission's budget, bringing the total cuts in the Commission budget to 9.5 percent. Reductions were also made in funding for hospital district primary health contracts and health department contracts. Children's services for mental health care contracts were reduced. The additional cuts will also slow work to synchronize traffic signals and to install mast arms to harden traffic lights in the event of adverse weather, such as a hurricane. The Broward County Historical Commission will be reorganized for additional savings. Altogether, Commissioners cut more than $85-million dollars from the property tax supported general fund budget.

"The responsible thing to do is to set a millage rate tonight and finalize a budget and that is what we did," said Commissioner Wexler. "I proposed additional budget cuts that I thought would further reduce the millage rate, but not deeply harm all County agencies and services. We all have to share the pain."

"It took compromise in order for the majority of Commissioners to reach an agreement as to how far we were willing to cut Broward County services and jobs. We have to realize that there are quality of life issues here," said Commissioner Kristin Jacobs. "These cuts minimize the overall adverse impact on taxpayers and County services. The vast majority of homeowners will see a decrease in their County property taxes. Next year we know we face even more economic challenges."

Commissioners Lois Wexler, Kristin Jacobs, Ilene Lieberman, Albert C. Jones and Vice Mayor Sue Gunzburger voted in favor of the finalized budget, which increased the property millage rate by approximately 3 percent from the year before. Mayor Ken Keechl voted against an increase in property taxes along with Commissioner John Rodstrom. Commissioner Stacy Ritter was not present, but had consistently voted against a millage rate increase throughout the budget process. The Broward County Charter mandates that at least five Commissioners must agree on a finalized budget.

One outstanding issue that remains is an additional $3.5 million dollars to finance salary increases for some Broward County Sheriff's deputies that a majority of Commissioners previously approved. (Mayor Ken Keechl and Commissioner John Rodstrom voted against those increases.) Broward County Administrator Bertha Henry agreed to work out those outstanding budget issues with the Broward Sheriff's Department.

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