On Sept. 27, Coral Springs held the final Budget Public Hearing & Commission Meeting to determine the city’s budget for the 2018 Fiscal Year.
The final budget commission meeting began with public comments in which 13 residents of Coral Springs spoke about their grievances or approval of the new millage increase plan for the city.
Many residents spoke about the commercial damage the millage rate would create, significantly increasing all business owners’ monthly costs and budgets.
“A three to five percent increase on taxes can have a negative effect on businesses everywhere,” business owner Michelle Kaufman said.
The majority of residents complained about the construction of new town hall which cost the city $38 million, according to Commissioner Joy Carter. Originally appraised at 28 million, the public became outraged at the dramatic cost increase and doubted it would improve the community as a whole.
“$28 million was approved, and the voters approved of that, but now it looks like its gonna cost $38 million,” said spectator Ben Robinson.
After public comments, the floor was closed. The Coral Springs Office of Budget and Strategy then presented how the various millage increase options would affect the average Coral Springs resident with a property value of around $250,000.
The goal of the change is to satisfy all of the city’s criteria: full adds to staff, operational enhancements, full capital, existing levels of service and Irma/reserves.
Option 1 included a 1.25 millage rate increase that would accomplish all seven of the city’s tiers but was despised by the members of the Coral Springs community. Option 2 was a 1.15 millage rate with five out of seven goals accomplished, leaving out replenishing the city’s reserves and funding Hurricane Irma repair. Option 3 and 4 had a 1.0 millage rate increase. Option 3 prioritized replenishing the reserves while option 4 emphasized fully completing the other goals, such as improving the parks and roads. Option 5 was a .75 increase with few goals provided for, which garnered the least support.
Rollback was also presented with cuts in every section of the budget. All options required a unanimous vote except for rollback, which needed simple majority.
In the lead up to the vote, option 2 was the favored plan by the commission, excluding Mayor Skip Campbell, although the residents’ still disagreed. Campbell’s main counterargument was the impact of the 1.15 millage on the Coral Springs business community, which would cost them thousands of dollars.
“I was for .75, but, because of Hurricane Irma, we have to go for 1.0. I can vote for 1, but I won’t go above that,” Campbell said.
Commissioner Larry Vignola and Vice Mayor Dan Daley opposed Campbell, arguing the 1.0 millage rate was too low.
“If we are taking a 5-0 on 1 millage, I will not vote for the 1 millage increase…we either go 1.15 or we need to start talking about what we can do with a simple majority,” Vignola said.
With gridlock on the vote, due to Mayor Campbell’s opposition to a 1.15 mill increase, the commission took a 15-minute recess to privately discuss potential compromises.
Upon return, Daley proposed a 1.075 millage rate, a compromise between the majority supported 1.15 rate and Campbell’s—and the public’s—desired 1.0 rate. Daley asserted a contingency on the proposal that the revenue gained from the increase from 1.0 to 1.075 must be applied into the community opposed to the reserve fund like option 4 had planned.
Debate resumed with conversation mainly rallying between Vignola and Campbell, each accusing the other of causing the indecisiveness and the possible budget rollback.
“We have a 4-1 vote and if you do not vote for this, then you will be responsible for us going onto the rollback,” Campbell said to Vignola.
The chamber seemed coordinated around Daley’s 1.075 while Vignola continued to refuse. He believed 1.075 was now too low from the original desired 1.25 millage rate. To attempt to compromise, Vignola proposed his own idea, a millage of 1.125, lower than the 1.15 rate but higher than the 1.075.
Upset comments from the public arose from the new, higher proposal. Vignola continued to boycott the 1.075 millage rate, as he feared the cut will not fund the necessities of the city.
“What kind of community do we want to be? When you all ran in 2014, you ran on keeping Coral Springs as a community of excellence,” Vignola said to his fellow commissioners.
After about an hour of debate, Vignola continued to oppose the favored 1.075 millage. Despite this, Vice Mayor Dan Daley made a motion for a 1.075 millage rate increase, which was seconded by Commissioner Lou Cimaglia, but failed 4-1 due to Vignola’s continued opposition to it.
Vignola, who is not up for re-election due to term limits, claims that he will not vote for the 1.075 rate because it was not what he “came on the commission to do.”
Following the vote, the commission had a second recess, and upon return, they decided to skip the millage rate increase vote to get done with other unrelated votes, all of which passed unopposed.
Under pressure to pass a unanimous millage rate increase before the state-set deadline of Oct. 1, Cimaglia, the quietest commissioner, asked Vignola to consider the compromise as the debate only continued in circles. Campbell and Carter attempted as well.
“There is a compromise here where everyone gets what they want: the residents and even the businesses especially,” Carter said to Vignola.
In a surprise move, hoping for a compromise, Carter motioned for the millage rate to increase by 1.1 mill, which was seconded by Vignola but met with fierce opposition from the crowd.
The proposal was instantly greeted with the exclamation of “you can’t do that” from the crowd.
However, with Daley suggesting he might vote for the motion, the budgeting staff quickly ran to redo the numbers with a proposed 1.1 mill increase, which prompted a third recess.
After the recess, Director of Budget and Strategy Catherine Givens outlined the differences between a 1.1 mill increase and a 1.075 mill increase. She explained that the difference between the two were a mere $40,000 increase in the reserves.
Under pressure from City Manager Michael Goodrum, who urged the commission to trust him with the budget under a 1.075 mill rate increase, Carter moved to pass a 1.075 millage rate, which was seconded by Vice Mayor Daley. When set to vote, all but Vignola voiced their “yes” vote.
Finally, Vignola orally voiced his opposition and warned the commission of the dangers of the 1.075 mill increase but reluctantly voted in favor of it. As the crowd gasped in relief, City Attorney John Hearn quickly began proceedings to set the final budget for the 2018 Fiscal Year, which would require only a majority vote.
The final budget, with the agreed upon 1.075 millage rate increase in mind, set aside some money for reserves, while still accounting for improvements to the parks and roads.