Hollywood aims to keep tax rate the same



If you’re a Hollywood property owner, there’s good news and bad news.

The good news: the city doesn’t plan to increase the tax rate and your property values likely have increased.

Which leads us to the bad news: because the rate will stay the same but your home is worth more, you’ll be paying a little bit more in taxes to the city.

But not as much as you could have been paying, if the city hadn’t gotten an unexpected $4.6 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to cover clean-up costs from Hurricane Wilma.

“It would have been worse if we didn’t get the FEMA money,” said the city’s Finance Director Matt Lalla, after presenting the proposed budget for fiscal year 2014 on Wednesday.

The next fiscal year begins Oct. 1.

The $195.5 million general fund budget — which is up about $19.5 million from this year’s budget — includes salary and benefit increases for employees, and maintenance and replacement for some city vehicles.

It also includes money for a recently signed $4.6 million two-year contract with the city’s fire union and an in-the-works $5.6 million two-year deal with the police union.

There’s also money to put into the city’s rainy day fund. After ending fiscal year 2011 with only $4.26 million in its reserves, Hollywood is poised to end fiscal year 2014 with $22 million.

“I think this is a really good budget,” said Mayor Peter Bober, adding that the city needs to continue to grow its reserves. “I think this really takes a conservative approach, which is exactly what we need.”

The budget presented Wednesday is a far cry from the one presented two years ago when the city was facing a $38 million budget hole and had to slash employee benefits and pay, and raise taxes.

Lalla said the FEMA money helped balance the proposed budget for next year without having to dip into the reserves or increase taxes and fees for next year.

The money will pay for one-time costs including pension payments to offset next year’s contribution, health care insurance and litigation that dates back the city’s declaration of financial urgency in 2010 and 2011.

“We were looking at a gap and this helped fill the gap,” he said.

Commissioner Patricia Asseff said she was disappointed the city will have to depend on the FEMA money before it’s even been received, but it she is glad the city has shown some improvement.

“It is what it is,” Asseff said. “It’s better than what we had.”

The tax rate will remain at $7.4479 per $1,000 of assessed property value and the fire fee will remain at $189.

However, Hollywood’s property values increased by 4.09 percent, according to the Broward property appraiser.

A homeowner whose property is currently valued at $100,000 will pay about $559 to the city, after taking the standard homestead exemption. That’s not including school, county and other taxes. That’s about $30 more than last year.

City Manager Cathy Swanson-Rivenbark said the proposed budget — which will be discussed at another workshop in August and two public hearings in September — is “properly funded” and puts the city in a good financial place.

“I think that it’s a stable, deliverable budget,” she said.

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