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The City of Hollywood recently held a budget workshop to discuss the Fiscal Year 2017 proposed budget. The city is wrestling with a budget gap of nearly $20 million and facing challenges in paying for pension costs and delivering critical services.
The City spends about $50 million a year to cover pension costs. This is more than half the money the city brings in in property taxes. Health care cost have increased by more than $6 million. During the meeting, commissioners expressed concern about this reality. Because it is an election year, none of the commissioners want to raise taxes.
During meeting, commissioners discussed going to a four day work week. Because of decreased energy and resource costs, this could mean a savings of $300,000. An increase in the fire fee from $209 to $222 would raise $1.6 million. Because of an increase in property values in Hollywood, there will be an extra $1.9 million in property taxes.
Because of the budget gap, City Manager Dr. Wazir Ishmael has told department leaders to cut costs by five percent, this means hiring freezes. The City has frozen 45 positions to save about $7 million. In the police department, 11 sworn officer positions have been frozen and 14 civilian positions have been frozen. Three firefighter positions have been frozen for six months. Two code enforcement positions have been frozen and nine public works positions have been frozen. Also, 31 part-time life guards will see their hours reduced. There will be fewer events and programs in the Parks and Recreation Department.
During the meeting, commissioners expressed concerns about how money is spent and about the pension situation. But there was also significant concern that critical services were being cut and this could harm residents.
Vice Mayor Peter Hernandez said he was concerned that if fewer life guards were working at the beach, people using the beach would be at greater risk.
Commissioner Traci Callari said she did not want to see hiring freezes.
The proposed millage or property tax rate is still 7.4479.