The Hollywood Commission passed the Fiscal Year 2017 budget on second reading. There was little discussion during the second reading portion.

The Commission also passed the Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) budget.

“This budget is going to be painful for residents,” Vice Mayor Peter Hernandez said. “We are cutting services in quality of life areas such as parks. We are freezing positions.”

Hernandez said he believes the CRA is siphoning money away from the City that could be used to provide services that residents really need. He wants to see more funds going to toward essential services such as police, fire and lifeguards.

Major cuts were made in the FY 2017 budget, which takes effect as of Oct. 1, including freezing of 48 positions, nine of which were sworn police officers, 14 were civil service personnel in the police department and seven of whom were certified firefighters. The City had to close a $24 million budget shortfall, and as part of that department heads had to cut their budgets by 5 percent.

Commissioner Kevin Biederman sees the 2017 budget more as half-full. “The budget is as good as it gets. I would have taken money out of the reserves to pay for things that were cut, like parks and recreation programs and events. You cut now and add later. People will appreciate it more when they get it back,” he said.

Commissioner Patricia Asseff said she is disappointed in the outcome. “I have great concern about this year’s budget. We should not have a $24 million deficit,” she said.

Asseff said she is concerned that so much of the City’s ad valorem taxes are going to pensions, salaries and health insurance. “It leaves me wondering how do we make this City solvent. It is not sustainable. We have to get everything back to reality,” she said. She went on to praise City Manager Dr. Wazir Ishmael. “I think he did a great job and is really telling the truth. He has been realistic and has not flowered the situation.” Asseff is a strong supporter of the penny sales tax. “We need this sales tax more than most cities do. We need the $12 million the sales tax would generate for the City’s infrastructure.”

Biederman also supports the penny sales tax. “I am wearing a penny around my neck. If people ask me why I am wearing the penny, I will tell them what the penny sales tax is all about,” he said.

Hernandez also believes that the penny sales tax, which is on the November ballot, is necessary to address the needs of Hollywood.

If Broward voters approve the penny sales tax, sales tax throughout the county would increase from 6 cents to 7 cents. Hollywood would receive some additional revenue, which would go toward public safety. It would allow for the purchase of new fire trucks and rescue units, police vehicles and other equipment. Money would also go toward the purchase of new playground equipment and other infrastructure items.