DATE: May 8, 2013
MEDIA CONTACT: Kimberly Maroe, Public Information Manager
Broward County Board of County Commissioners
The Broward County Commission voted 5-to-4 to fully fund the countywide 911 emergency communications system. The funding will come from general revenues and a small increase in ad valorem taxes. The tax increase will cost an additional $21 for the average homesteaded property valued at $121,000.
“The passage of regionalized 911 funded and administered by County government will not only ultimately save lives but will also save millions of dollars a year through consolidation,” said Commissioner Lois Wexler, who co-chaired the Broward County Consolidated Communications Committee created to look at the issue of regional communications. Their findings were then turned over to an Implementation Board (I-Board), which recommended that the County create and fund the regional system with ad valorem taxes. Subsequently, 23 of Broward’s 31 cities passed resolutions requesting that the County fund the system through property taxes.
“If every city were paying their full freight, I’d have no problem, but there are many cities that are not paying anything and they're still receiving emergency services. They're not going to join in, and by spreading the cost of 911 over all of the cities in Broward County, we're talking about a small millage increase and I am looking to save lives,” said Commissioner Sue Gunzburger, who changed her previous vote which favored cities sharing in the cost of system.
In March Commissioners voted in favor of a plan initiated by Commissioner Tim Ryan where the County would pay 60 percent of the annual operating expenses for a countywide system and the cities would fund 40 percent of the annual operating costs. That vote was originally supported by the majority of those on the Commission, but rescinded at Tuesday’s Commission meeting.
“So I, for one, am not going to vote for a system where the taxpayers have to pay more,” said Commissioner Tim Ryan.
“I have been very frustrated that the cities, the editorial boards and the citizens have couched this as a vote for or against public safety when, in fact, it is an unfunded mandate that we are voting for today,” stated Mayor Kristin Jacobs.
“My vote will continue to be no, never against public safety though, but always against a complete travesty of the taxpayer dollars, and that's why I can't support it,” said Commissioner Chip LaMarca.
The current emergency system will be consolidated from nine dispatch centers to three. The consolidated system will enhance safety and ultimately reduce costs. Broward County will take the lead in the consolidation process and will maintain governance over the system. Based on current property valuations, Broward residents will pay an additional $20.3 million in taxes in 2014. Commissioners are strongly encouraging cities currently funding their own emergency operations to pass the savings on to residents, now that the County is financing the consolidated system.
The County estimates the system will eventually save taxpayers about $10 million per year when the consolidation is complete.
Those who voted in favor of the County fully funding the system were Vice Mayor Barbara Sharief, Commissioners Martin David Kiar, Lois Wexler, Sue Gunzburger and Dale V.C. Holness. Those voting against the measure were Mayor Kristin Jacobs, Commissioners Chip LaMarca, Tim Ryan, and Stacy Ritter.