News Column

Lauderhill tax rate proposed to stay the same

July 12, 2014

By Larry Barszewski, Sun Sentinel

July 12--LAUDERHILL -- Despite rising property values in the city, officials aren't planning to give homeowners a tax break this year.

City Manager Chuck Faranda's proposed budget would keep the city's property tax rate the same as last year, but that means the average homeowner will pay more because their property is now worth more.

Under Faranda's plan, the tax rate for the city's operating budget and voter-approved debt would stay at $8.65 for each $100,000 of assessed value for the fiscal year that starts Oct. 1. The owner of a home assessed at $200,000 and receiving the state's homestead exemption would pay about $1,298 in city taxes.

The city expects to collect $832,372 more in property taxes for its $48.2 million operating budget. The overall taxable value of properties in the city over the past year has increased 7.6 percent, including new construction.

The city's operating budget is significantly less this year because fire protection services are in a separate $16.5 million budget.

Faranda said the proposed increase when the operating and fire protection budgets are considered together is "related almost entirely" to rising salaries and pensions.

Mayor Richard Kaplan said he is relieved the tax rate doesn't have to go up, given the increased demand for police, fire-rescue and other city operations.

"We do have a definite increase in the requests for services," Kaplan said.

Lauderhill has had the toughest time of any Broward city in restoring its property values. Its current median home value is 57 percent below its pre-recession high.

Faranda's budget also includes a 2.6 percent increase in the city's fire fee, a $10 jump for residential properties bringing the annual fee to $398.

In order to balance the budget, Faranda is recommending the city no longer exempt government properties from paying the city's fire fee. He expects charging the county, school district and other governmental agencies for fire services would raise about $550,000 a year.

"To the government agencies, it may be very controversial to them," Kaplan said. "The commission has not discussed it."

The proposed budget keeps the number of city employees at current levels, Faranda said, 404 full-time and 102 part-time positions.

The proposed capital budget includes only three items: new radios for firefighters, eight new police cars and paying to complete a new fire station.

Commissioners are scheduled to hold a workshop on the proposals at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday at City Hall. The city this month will finalize a proposed budget and tax rate, which will be included in preliminary tax notices sent out by the Property Appraiser's Office in August.

Public hearings on the budget and tax rate are scheduled for Sept. 15 and 29. or 954-356-4556


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Source: South Florida Sun Sentinel (FL)

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