By: Howard Melamed
Remember the article we posted a few weeks ago that said if you own a home or commercial property in Coral Springs, expect your tax to increase 26 percent? Well, we were way off the mark. According to new data, expect a 35 percent increase in city property taxes. That is, unless of course you can convince the city commissioners to vote no at a special budget meeting on September 19.
The city commissioners want you to believe that the increase is needed for positive requirements of the city. Check out the proposed budget here and see for yourself 2018 Proposed Annual Budget. They want to tell you how our taxes are lower than other cities and we should be thankful that they are not asking us to pay more. “See how bad other cities have it and be thankful that we don’t tax you more.” Doesn’t that sound like government thinking we work for them and not the other way around?
What they are really doing is leaving out the real reason why they need us to fork over more money:
1. The City Hall is costing a lot more than they told us. As a matter of fact it is more than 33 percent over budget – costing us a scandalous $38 million. Consider that Commissioner Vignola and the bunch were on record three years ago saying it won’t cost more than $28 million
2. They have decided to increase their operating budget by $18.5 million – or 10.6 percent compared to 2017 along with adding more than 28 more staff members. (see Page 16 of the budget).
Focus on the above two points. If they decided to save some money, just a little, no tax increase would be needed.
The city wants you to believe they need the extra money for enhancing staffing levels in public safety, improving median maintenance and the condition of streets and street lighting, replacing walking/biking paths, addressing aging infrastructure, refreshing our parks and maintenance plans and increasing events for all segments of our community. They want to also continue the city’s commitment to attracting and retaining a well-qualified, highly regarded workforce. This is straight out of their 2018 budget documents. See for yourself in the link above.
To think that we could have simply bought the multi-story ‘Darth Vader’ building just south of the library for $11 million which was double the size of the new city hall, had all the parking needed and would have saved us more than $29 million must make a lot of citizens in this city sick.” – Howard Melamed.
What they don’t make obvious is that this budget also increases rates on single family owners for 3.5 percent for water and garbage and 16 percent for single-family fire assessment with no increase to apartment buildings. It is apartments that have forced this city in increase its staffing in greater proportion than single family housing. The city needs to get the equivalent taxes of a $255,000 home from each apartment to break even, which they don’t get now.
They also don’t want you to focus on the increase to service the new City Hall debt approaching $40 million as the real reason why they need more money.
Add to that, the cost of running the “Taj Mahal” City Hall: moving expenses of $200,000 that they did not expect (not sure why they did not know this) and running a $40 million building makes us wonder what were they thinking when they all voted to build the city hall in 2014.
Our property tax bill is divided into three portions: city, county and public schools. Most of the tax increase in your tax bill is from the City of Coral Springs. Broward County had small amounts of increase inline with cost of living percentages. Last year the city had a surplus. Where did all the money go? Towards their incredible thirst for spending taxpayer’s money.
Our city commissioners approved the construction of this Taj Mahal, a building that is two stories too high and has an $8 million parking garage that no one will use. It does not matter to them that they are over budget since this is not their money. Never has been. In fact, there is no reason for them to save money on anything.
How did this happen?
Simply put, you elected commissioners Daley, Vignola and Cimaglia, who all ran on making sure the city hall was to be built. Mayor Campbell, and Joy Carter ran on the other platform – that the city hall was too expensive at $28 million.
Now that it is approaching $40 million, no one is screaming for an investigation.
When did they know they would be 30 percent over budget? Did they approve the project knowing this without telling the citizens? How could they simply spend our money with out a vote?
All of these points are never going to be answered as long as everyone lets them get away with this. That is because you keep voting them in. Maybe they are friends of yours. If so, ask them to pay your increase in taxes. They have their hands in our pockets and yet, you keep voting them in. It’s not their fault.
See for yourself on page 34 of the budget which shows the Municipal Bonds + Capital note repayment. There are three lines that total $47 million dollars. A 2014 Municipal Complex Loan Ph. 1 $10 million, 2015 Municipal Complex Bond Ph. 2 $27.3 million and a Capital Revenue Note at $12 million over 10 years. This is money borrowed that totals $1.7 million in expenses every year. Worse, the 2014 Municipal Complex note is interest only and is due six years from now which means in 2023 we will need to fork up $10 million. That is why they are predicting further deficits.
This City Hall has cost us dearly and we are paying the price of the poor decisions and mistakes by city commissioners over the past several years. To think that we could have simply bought the multi-story ‘Darth Vader’ building just south of the library for $11 million which was double the size of the new city hall, had all the parking needed and would have saved us more than $29 million must make a lot of citizens in this city sick.
So now, cash-strapped Coral Springs needs more money, and you and I are the suckers that they are going after to pay for their bad spending habits.
If you think this is the end of it, think again. Page 81 of the proposed budget shows that even increasing taxes at 4 percent per year, we still are $7 million in the hole in 2021. What if they are wrong on this too? That means you can expect increases to our taxes greater than 4 percent every year unless they stop the money burn rate they are on now. However, there is absolutely no incentive for anyone of the city commissioners or city staff to reduce taxes to us.
No doubt when they sell the old city hall and land estimated to be worth more than $5 million, they will simply put it into the general fund or worse, will increase the reserves again. Page 8 Additional Points – Dedicating resources to fund additional reserves – means stashing away more while increasing our taxes and not spending the money. If you and I buy a new home and sell the old one, don’t you take the money and put it down to lower the mortgage of the new home? Don’t expect it in this city. There is no incentive for anyone to do differently.
With a city that cannot control their spending, increases like these will hurt our city that has to compete with other cities for business to come here. Increases in business taxes, service charges and higher property taxes will have to come about to pay for this city’s spending habits.
What can you do about it?
Attend the Public Budget Hearing scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 19 at 5:15 p.m. in the city commission chambers – that’s the old city hall building that is $40 million less money than the new one they built across the street.
Unless of course your really really really believe that having increased taxes and a spend spend spend commission makes ‘Coral Springs Great Again’.
Howard Melamed is a long-time resident of Coral Springs. He is a civil engineer and CEO of CellAntenna Corporation which has been located in Coral Springs since 1992. He serves on the City of Coral Springs Economic Development Advisory Committee and is the editor of Coralsprings.com.