City Holds the Line on Taxes

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The city isn’t raising taxes this year, but property owners’ tax bills will still likely go up. The reason? Rising property values.

City commissioners on July 25 adopted a proposed tax rate of $6.4548 for $1,000 of assessed value, approximately 0.5 percent lower than the current rate due to a slight decrease in debt service.

A final budget hearing is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on August 28 at City Hall, 524 NW 21st Court.

If the tax rate is approved, the owner of a $300,000 single family home would pay $1,936.44 in municipal property taxes. Residents’ total property tax bills also include additional fees paid to Broward County Schools, the North Broward Hospital District, South Florida Water Management District and other entities.

But despite the flat city property tax rate, residents’ tax bills could jump because property values in the city rose 7.73 percent from a year ago, according to a report by City Manager Leigh Ann Henderson.

The city’s proposed $36.4 million municipal budget adds no new positions. A budget message from Henderson notes that the city could lose $330,00 in property tax revenue should voters in November approve a constitutional amendment granting eligible residents an additional $25,000 homestead exemption.

The ballot item would exempt the portion of home values between $100,000-$125,000 from property taxes other than school taxes, for a maximum homestead exemption of $75,000.

Commissioners said some cities have lowered their municipal tax rates because of increased property values but they were holding the line in anticipation of the amendment’s passage.

The city has also proposed hiking the fire assessment fee for single family homes by $4.73, which would increase the annual rate of $214.72 to $219.45. Wilton Manors contracts with the city of Fort Lauderdale for its fire services.

In addition, the city is also reducing the fire assessment subsidy for non-profits, said Commissioner Tom Green. The subsidy is being reduced from 70 percent to 50 percent, he said.

“We used to make non-profits totally exempt from the fire assessment fee. They are not paying property taxes to begin with,” Green said. “They are going to be paying 50 percent [of the fire assessment fee]. There is a philosophical discussion should they be paying anything and quite a few of us think so.”

Mayor Gary Resnick said he thinks the 2018-2019 proposed budget is sound.

“I think the budget is a very strong budget. It allows us to continue a lot of the projects we started, including some of the recreational amenities,” Resnick said.

The proposed budget includes a $17.6 general fund budget, which includes funds for police, fire and street services.

Also included are average annual wage increases of between three and four percent for employees and additional funds to provide for hiring incentives for the Police Department, Resnick noted.

City activist Paul Rolli, who chaired Wilton Manors Budget Review Advisory Committee from 2011-2015, said the city needs to do more to save money.

“Overall Wilton Manors’ total budget has gone up $15 million in 10 years. I don’t think we can continue increase like that,” Rolli said. “I think we could have done more planning ahead.”

He said the city needs more affordable housing for young workers, and worried that existing home prices and taxes are much too high for young people to afford.

“We are really at a turning point,” he said. “I think we could be more fiscally responsible and be more reliant on technology and reduce the reliance on staffing,” Rolli said.


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