After raising the operating millage rate from 6.06836 to 6.26836, commissioners unanimously voted to lower it back to 6.02836 – the original level recommended by city staff. Combined with the millage from the city’s debt service on its parks and city hall bonds, the total millage is 6.72256. That millage, along with other sources of revenue, resulted in a budget of $31.2 million.
“They did more than balance [the millage], they lowered it,” said Mayor Gary Resnick about city staff.
The result is an increase of $1.24 per year for homeowners covered by Save Our Homes [SOH] and $267.84 for those not covered. For condo owners under SOH, the increase is 70 cents per year and $117.09 for those not covered.
Officials originally raised the operating millage to help pay for additional police officers and a park ranger, in response to public demands to clean up Hagen Park and improve road safety. But budget cuts elsewhere, said city officials, helped pay for the additional personnel without increasing the millage.
The cost of some items and departments are increasing. An increase in salaries, additional personnel, insurance and operating costs resulted in an increase in police department expenses, from $6.5 million last year to $7.1 million this year. Those increased costs are part of why the city’s Budget Review Committee is against the hiring of two new police officers – at a cost of about $85,000 each.
The new officers will be focused on traffic enforcement and about $25,000 in additional revenue is expected to come as a result.
Another part of the city’s efforts to improve public safety comes from the hiring of a full-time park ranger for $56,000. That position was added so the city could better monitor Colohatchee Park and other facilities. The park has developed a reputation as place for sex and multiple residents and commissioners have said something needs to be done.
“Taking back Colohatchee is vital . . . for the quality of life of the city,” said Commissioner Justin Flippen. Resnick disagreed, saying that he thinks the park’s problems are “exaggerated to some extent.”
Various fees are also set to increase. Parking will go from $1 per hour to $1.50, which will generate an estimated $230,000 per year in additional revenue. Commissioner Tom Green argued the increase should be cut in half to 25 cents.
The cost of water, an increase of 5 percent, will cost an average of $4.98 more per month. Wilton Manors gets its water from Fort Lauderdale and officials there control the cost.
The annual Residential Rental License fee, paid by residential property owners for every tenant they have, may also increase. The fee was raised from $20 to $50 but it will have to be approved at a future commission meeting.
Commissioners also increased their own salaries. Each commissioner got a raise from $7,800 per year to $9,750 and the mayor went from $9,000 to $11,250 – about $10,000 more a year total. Commissioners defended the raise, but so too did at least two residents – Paul Kuta and Tim Ross. “We don’t pay them enough. It’s almost a full-time job. The hourly rate may be less than minimum wage [if you count all the hours they work off the dais],” Ross said.
Commissioners argued that the increase will only cover the costs associated with being commissioner and are not an actual pay raise. “This job costs us money. We’re certainly not getting rich,” Resnick said.