Message From The Commissioner
Back to Work
To students, it is September, not January that feels like the real start of the year. It’s the same for elected officials and county staffers: that is when budgets are finalized, the fiscal year begins and projects kick into high gear after vacation.
This fall is a classic example. The commission’s four months wrestling with the budget is nearing an end, but other challenges are just beginning, notably redrawing the nine district boundaries.
This newsletter gives you a deeper look into issues we face this season, plus news of some opportunities you might want to take advantage of. As always, government is a partnership between the citizens and their public servants. We can’t do this alone. Please keep in touch with us.
Details of our toughest job – developing a balanced budget for fiscal year 2012 – are becoming clearer as we near two public hearings and the final votes this month.
The good news is that despite what may be a slight drop in the valuations of property, we trimmed enough services, rooted out enough waste and found enough savings that we may not ask for an increase in fiscal year 2011’s tax rate of 5.553 mills. The fact that many cities in Broward are increasing their tax rate shows how tough these trims were.
On the other side of the ledger, the lingering effects of the recession continue to challenge the County as we try to maintain essential services while facing long-term drops in income compared to past years. The general fund budget for the upcoming year is projected to be $931,402,950, which is $10 million less and a one percent reduction from the current year.
Until recently, we saw early hints of recovery in the economy, although it was clear that it was going to take longer to affect South Florida than other places in the country. But recent news has thrown economic forecasts into uncertainty. This reaffirms the County’s need to consider saving money by delivering services regionally – for instance, consolidating administration and overhead costs among multiple counties.
We want to hear your suggestions; the commission will hold two public hearings—prior to its first and second votes on the final figures—at 5 p.m. on September 13 and 27 at the Governmental Center in Room 422, 115 S. Andrews Ave., in Fort Lauderdale.
“Redistricting” may sound like bureaucratic gobbledygook, but it’s one of the crucial challenges that determines who represents you and how much of a voice you have in deciding the local issues that affect your life.
We need your advice this fall about how to redraw the borders of the nine county commissioners’ districts.
Using fresh census data every ten years, the commission redraws the boundaries to ensure the population remains equal in each district and assure fair representation. This year, the commission will vote on the changes by late November or early December.
To begin with, a number of workshops have been slated for the public to learn the basics of the process and provide input, including two close to you in district 5:
Sept. 26, from 5 to 7 p.m.
Tree Tops Park / Oak Auditorium
3900 S.W. 100th Ave., Davie
Sept. 29 from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m.
Government Center West
1 University Drive, Plantation
Then the commission will hold two public hearings sometime in October and early November. Once again, your input is needed. One way to plot out your ideas is by drawing boundaries on your own maps. The State of Florida has developed Web-based software that the public can access for free at www.floridaredistricting.net. Click the button “My District Builder.”
Staff from the County Planning and Redevelopment Division can advise you on using the software and submitting maps. Paper maps are also available, with voter precincts and current Commission district boundaries noted, for people who want to draw maps by hand.
If you have any questions on the redistricting process or want any additional information please visit the redistricting website, or contact the County Planning and Redevelopment Division at 954-357-6602.
Restoring Library and Park Services
Few budget issues upset as many people as the cuts to the hours for our libraries and parks. Commissioners and County staff heard the outcry and are making changes this fall.
Most parks will be open nearly every day beginning Labor Day and some regional libraries will reopen for patrons on Sundays beginning October 2.
The effort to reopen parks, except for Christmas Day and the day after Thanksgiving, does come with some trade-offs. The offices at the parks will cut their hours; there will be fewer County-sponsored amenities, activities and facilities; and more areas will not be mowed, which means smaller areas where pedestrians can walk. The reopening is made possible by using more part-time staffers during holidays and weekdays, plus manpower provided by volunteers.
The six largest regional libraries will reopen Sundays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. including the West Regional Library at 8601 W. Broward Boulevard in Plantation, South Regional Library at 7300 Pines Boulevard in Pembroke Pines, and Southwest Regional Library at 16835 Sheridan Street, also in Pembroke Pines.
Residents also can check out books from the Alvin Sherman Library, Research and Information Technology Center at Nova Southeastern University in Davie on Sundays from 11 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. The Main Library in Fort Lauderdale will remain closed on weekends through at least the first half of 2012 while windows and doors are replaced to meet hurricane protection standards.
These changes were made possible by shifting the staff’s hours and days off.
Driving on I-595 has become more challenging: exits disappearing, walls springing up a few feet from your car, a few more accidents than normal and considerably more congestion.
But disruptions have been minimal considering how much massive work is underway day and night. The project appears to be on schedule.
You can sidestep the worst problems by being aware of precisely when and where work will be concentrated. That allows you to plan detours or add extra travel time to trips. Also, watch for information on portable message boards posted along the corridor that give motorists a few days’ warning about closings.
A map of lane and ramp closures, updated every few days, is available.
The most serious problem right now is the work creating “braided ramps”. Limited working space between I-595 and SR 84 requires shutting down some current ramps while building them.
Two ramps have been closed completely until sometime in November:
The ramp leading off westbound SR 84 onto westbound I-595, located west of Pine Island Road. This ramp also served as the westbound entrance to I-595 coming from University. Traffic often backs up on that access road.
The ramp leading off westbound I-595 onto westbound SR 84, located at Exit 3 for Nob Hill Road.
Work began more than a year ago and the final deadline is slated for summer 2014.
Giving Back to the Community
Baby Boomers know that retirement is just a transition to another vital, productive chapter in their lives. The Leadership Broward Foundation wants to train this generation of retirees by enlisting their expertise to become community activists this fall.
The Foundation has created Encore! Leadership Broward classes to train residents at least 50 years old who are retired or are looking ahead toward that time of life. Encore! is designed to educate, inspire and connect them with information about opportunities for working with non-profit and government agencies strapped with budget cuts, as well as support tapping into their personal leadership goals.
Only 30 people will be accepted in the current class. Tuition is $250 but partial financial aid is available. Classes begin September 14 and last through November.
To learn more about the program, registration fees and to request an application, call Danielle Sylvester 954-767-8866 or e-mail Danielle@leadershipbroward.org.
Waste Less Energy and Save Money
Broward County is offering a new Energy Sense Appliance Rebate Program to residents and small- to medium-sized businesses that replace old appliances with more energy efficient appliances.
Up to $400,000 is available in rebates to eligible participants who purchase qualified Energy Star refrigerators, freezers or washing machines. The program is funded through the Energy Efficiency Conservation Block Grant.
Applicants must pre-register online and then mail an application to the County postmarked no later than November 4. Rebates will be available on a first-come, first-served basis only for appliances purchased on or after the pre-registration dates, which begin September 7 (businesses) and September 26 (residents).
Several information sessions will be held in libraries during September. For more information, call 954-357-7328 weekdays between 8:30 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. or email EnergySense@broward.org.