Hollywood, Florida Budget Includes $28 Increase In Fire Fees

Hollywood--The tax rate will not rise, but residents may end up paying a higher fire assessment fee next year, according to a proposed budget released Tuesday.

City Manager Cameron Benson has proposed increasing the fire fee residents pay from $65 to $93 for fiscal year 2004, which begins Oct. 1.

The increase would raise an additional $2.8 million to offset increases in the cost of fire service operations and help pay for a new fire station that would be built within the next two years.

No tax increase was required to balance the proposed $264.3 million budget, which originally had a projected gap of $16.2 million, Benson said in a phone interview on Tuesday.

"The national economy is playing a major role," Benson said. "I know Hollywood is not immune to some of those impacts."

Residents have seen the tax rate increase each of the past two years, and commissioners instructed city staff earlier this year to do what it could to avoid raising taxes. The commissioners also said they wanted to focus on promoting economic development and reducing the city's health care costs.

"The commission had three priorities," Benson said. "We believe we've met all of those priorities."

Health insurance costs for employees increased 38 percent this fiscal year and are projected to increase an additional 15 percent in the coming year, said Assistant City Manager David Keller.

City employees now pay more toward their health costs, which will help the city save $487,000 in the coming year to offset the increase, Keller said.

Because of an increase in property values the city will gain more than $800,000 in projected property tax revenues even though the tax rate will not rise, Keller said.

The budget will become final after two public hearings on Sept. 4 and Sept. 18.

City commissioners will conduct their final budget workshop before their summer break on Thursday at 3 p.m. in Room 215 at City Hall, 2600 Hollywood Blvd.