City Commission Proposes No Increase in Millage Rate
Guided by the principles and values embodied in our community-wide Vision, we are transforming Fort Lauderdale into “The City You Never Want to Leave” by making key investments to ensure a safe, healthy, active, inclusive, and sustainable community today and for future generations.
The engine that is moving our collective Vision forward is the City’s Proposed Budget for Fiscal Year 2017. As the bridge which connects us to our citizenry, the proposed budget is a strategic game plan that allocates financial and employee resources to support the goals and objectives identified in the City’s Vision, Strategic Plan, Commission Annual Action Plan, Community Investment Plan and, most importantly, the priorities of our neighbors.
Our approach to budget planning is ongoing, transparent, and inclusive. Throughout the year, the City Commission works cooperatively with the Budget Advisory Board, City Manager, Budget Office, and staff from every City department to develop a comprehensive, strategic, and meaningful budget that maximizes resources, minimizes expenses, enhances service delivery, and preserves our core values.
Prior to the presentation of the FY 2017 Proposed Budget, Fort Lauderdale received another clear sign of our continued economic strength when the Broward County Property Appraiser informed us that our property values rose 9.79% over last year, marking the fifth consecutive year of growth and representing the largest increase since 2007. In addition to the gains in property valuation, Fort Lauderdale led the entire county with nearly $456 million in new construction.
While revenues are still well below the highs of the past decade, these impressive gains provide us with the opportunity to consider allocating funding to support additional priorities identified by our neighbors, including deferred maintenance, drainage, and infrastructure repairs that were purposely put on hold during more challenging economic times.
After careful consideration, the Commission unanimously passed a resolution proposing no increase to the City’s current operating millage rate of 4.1193 per $1,000 of taxable value. This represents the tenth consecutive fiscal year that we have held the line on property taxes, and by doing so, continues to fulfill our commitment to keep our millage rate unchanged while continuing to deliver quality, cost effective services to our neighbors. Today, our millage rate ranks as the lowest among the 25 largest cities in Florida.
The FY 2017 Proposed Budget is structurally balanced and does not rely on the use of any reserve funds to close gaps or eliminate deficits. It provides resources to enhance public safety, bolster emergency operations, improve traffic flow, upgrade streets and sidewalks, expand green space, advance urban planning, and strengthen infrastructure to combat flooding, sea level rise, and the impacts of climate change.
As a result of our conservative fiscal management, lean process improvements, and operational efficiencies, we are projecting a reserve fund balance of $67.5 million, which is well above our adopted policy and exceeds the national standard for municipal governments.
Fort Lauderdale’s strong reserve funds, coupled with our low debt load, continue to enhance our bond ratings. Earlier this year, two of the world’s leading credit rating agencies, Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s, assigned ratings of Aa1 and AA+, respectively, to the sale of our Water and Sewer Revenue Refunding Bonds. According to the experts, the ratings reflect “the strength of a well-managed system supported by a strong liquidity position, competitive rate structure, and a sound capital improvement program.” Our favorable bond ratings save our neighbors and businesses millions of dollars in interest costs and strengthen the City’s long-term financial stability.
The FY 2017 Proposed Budget addresses numerous neighbor priorities including putting more police officers and firefighter/paramedics on our streets to serve, protect, and respond to emergencies; upgrading critical emergency apparatus and equipment; replacing outdated water and sewer mains; implementing stormwater and drainage improvements; renovating seawalls; creating safer, more walkable and bikeable streets; advancing sustainability initiatives; enhancing recreational programs and special events; renourishing our beaches; and investing in technology to streamline our plan review and permitting processes.
Tremendous progress is also being made on several long-term initiatives supported by City resources that will redefine our future including ongoing development of the downtown Wave Streetcar, the All Aboard Florida Brightline high speed passenger rail service, the Las Olas Boulevard Corridor Improvement Project on Fort Lauderdale Beach, enhancements to our Riverwalk and downtown areas, and continued revitalization efforts in the Beach, Northwest, and Center City Community Redevelopment Areas (CRAs).
Fort Lauderdale continues to earn top national rankings for outstanding initiatives in economic and business development, sustainability, transportation and mobility, technology, recreation, travel and leisure, and quality-of-life. We have been named to dozens of Top Ten lists, including: Best Cities for Small Businesses in America; Best Downtowns in the Nation; Best Retail Markets in the Nation; Best Cities for Millennial Job Seekers; Greenest Mid-Sized Cities; Most Popular U.S. Beaches; and many more.
Our game plan is solid; our approach is sound; and our commitment to building community has never been stronger. We are an exciting City that has truly come of age!
As we look ahead, my fellow Commissioners and I will continue to work in partnership with you to build a bright future for everyone, while making Fort Lauderdale the best place to live, work, play, visit, and raise a family.
I encourage you to review the Proposed Budget and the Proposed Community Investment Plan on the City’s website at www.fortlauderdale.gov/budget and make plans to attend public hearings on Wednesday, September 7th and Monday, September 12th at 6 pm at City Hall.
Enjoy the rest of the summer!
John P. “Jack” Seiler