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  • Sunrise Fire Tax Hike

    Sunrise weighs 35% hike in fire fees

    By Christy McKerney
    Staff writer
    Posted September 17 2003

    SUNRISE ยท Taxpayers will likely pay 35 percent more for fire rescue fees next year.

    That increase won't hire more firefighters or significantly improve their ability to fight fires, but it could free up money for other programs.

    "If the additional assessment was going to be used to add ... staff or used for pay increases, then I would have no problem in voting for that," said Commissioner Don Rosen, one of two elected officials who opposed increasing the annual fee. "But unfortunately, we're not doing any of that stuff. It's just going to the general fund."

    Sunrise fire department's $14.2 million budget is actually decreasing by $1.2 million next year, down from $15.4 million, according to the proposed city budget.

    Taxpayers will pay $4.8 million in fire fees next year, $1.3 million more than the $3.5 million they paid this year.

    If the fire tax increase is approved, residents will pay $89.50 instead of $66.50 each year. The higher fee would put $1.2 million into the general fund. And it would be the second time in two years the city has increased the fee.

    Commissioners in 2001 hiked the fire rescue fee 122 percent, from $30 to $66.50, raising $1.97 million to buy new pumper trucks, equipment and a ladder truck, Rosen said. That's not the case next year, he said.

    The increase would be finalized after a second public hearing that will also address the city's proposed $131.4 million total budget, which includes a $71.6 million general operating fund. A Sept. 24 hearing is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. at City Hall.

    Mayor Steve Feren and Commissioners Joseph Scuotto and Irwin Harlem supported the tax increase Monday.

    The increase would cost residents only $2 more per month and would help the entire city move forward, Feren told fellow commissioners Monday night.

    "You can vote this down, or you can go back and cut $1.2 million from the budget," Feren said.

    One of the ways City Manager Pat Salerno keeps the property tax in check is by raising other fees, the mayor said. The proposed property tax rate is $6.24 per $1,000 taxable property value.

    With property values climbing, the commission would have to roll back the tax rate to $5.71 per $1,000 to keep taxes the same.

    Commissioner Sheila Alu opposed increasing the fire fees, especially at a time when the city was considering offering $15.8 million in incentives to a private developer to build a new downtown project next to Sawgrass Mills outlet mall.

    "We are voting on raising taxes at the same time we're giving incentives away, and I don't think our residents would support it," Alu said.

    She suggested delaying one of the city's $144.5 million in planned capital projects, such as the third phase of the Sunrise Tennis Club park on West Oakland Park Boulevard.

    "So you want to cut services?" Scuotto asked.

    "The tennis club? When people are in hard economic times?" Alu said.

    "There's nobody who likes raising taxes," Feren said. "It's part of the job you get elected to do, if it's necessary."

    Christy McKerney can be reached at [email protected] or 954-572-2008.
    09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
    IACOJ Minister of Southern Comfort
    "Purple Hydrant" Recipient (3 Times)
    BMI Investigator
    The comments, opinions, and positions expressed here are mine. They are expressed respectfully, in the spirit of safety and progress. They do not reflect the opinions or positions of my employer or my department.

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