I’m Stacy Ritter, your County Commissioner, representing the residents of District 3, which includes portions of Coral Springs, Tamarac, Sunrise, and Parkland.
I think that most of us would agree that 2009 was a year to remember. And perhaps like all memories, some are fond and some are not.
The year began with much promise—as Americans would make history and elect the first African-American to the office of President of the United States--and he would inherit a Country on the brink of financial ruin.
2009 was the first year that the nation and Broward County experienced the full impact of the recession.
Balancing the 2010 budget was a great challenge. We were the first County Commission in South Florida to adamantly go on the record opposing any property tax increase, no matter how small.
With a record number of homes in foreclosure; property values plunging; and unemployment escalating; this Commission promised to offer tax reductions to ease the financial burdens of our residents. A responsible decision, but nonetheless one that left us with a budget gap in excess of $100-million dollars in the taxpayer supported general fund.
The county budget reflects the Commission’s conscience. Our commitment became our practice: property tax reductions with minimal as possible impact in county services and a promise to avoid the loss of jobs wherever possible.
It was a challenge that revealed our greatest strengths as a governing body and became one of our greatest accomplishments of the year.
The vast majority of property owners will see a reduction of $246 in their property taxes. The $3.3 billion budget decreased by $314 million compared to this year’s budget. The millage rate in Broward County remains at 4.889. Perhaps our greatest success was saving jobs. Originally this Commission sadly prepared to lay-off 250 employees. In the long run, Broward County’s Human Resources placed all but a handful of employees into full or part time jobs. For those who could not be re-positioned, we agreed to extend their health care benefits for the nine months as they seek new employment.
Ultimately, outstanding leadership, practiced at every level—this Commission, County Administration, staff, every county employee—would bring us to where we are today.
A balanced budget, reduced property taxes, a leaner—but more efficient government—a stabilized workforce—and a sense of accomplishment to fuel us forward.
Through a series of budget workshops, public hearings and Commission meetings we balanced the budget and implemented policies and procedures that will position Broward County to emerge stronger and recover quicker once the economy turns around.
Our bond rating remains strong as we maintain a “Double-A” bond rating with Moody’s, Fitch and Standard and Poor’s.
Like the economy through out our nation—our economic engines have slowed—but are still sound and running strong.
With foresight—we did plan for this rainy day. We also are moving forward creatively, looking for ways to increase our revenues without raising taxes.
And we continue to move forward with faith and optimism, knowing that we have the leadership to get us through this daunting time with an expectation of a better future on the horizon.