By Agrippina Fadel
After some cajoling, the Tamarac city commission has approved the tentative budget for the 2023 fiscal year.
The commission had to vote twice at the first public hearing to find a consensus.
On September 14, Jeff Streder, Budget Manager, said the total tentative budget is $243,987,846, with $77,686,494 allocated for the General Fund. He added that the outlined budget is based on the 7.2000 millage rate that the commission adopted earlier at the same meeting and that should they vote for a lower rate at the final hearing, the budget will also change.
Streder reminded the commission approval of the budget rate would require a supermajority of four members.
During the discussion, the car allowance became a hot topic when Commissioner Elvin Villalobos asked Streder how much the city would save if the commissioners removed the $700 a month perk ($42,000). Villalobos said the residents often complained about the cleanliness of Tamarac’s streets and wondered if the $42K could help the city “hire a couple of part-time workers to clean.”
Mayor Michelle Gomez said she has no problem with the reduction of the $700 car allowance but added that a more significant concern, in her opinion, is the $25,000 initiative fund that each commissioner receives annually, costing taxpayers $125,000 a year.
“We don’t need it. The city organizes approximately 33 events every year. Why does the commission need to add more?” said Gomez, adding that she would like to look into how much the city spends on the community engagement liaisons, another long disputed expense, costing taxpayers $141,608.
Gomez said if reductions to the budget need to be made to get the four votes from the commissioners, these expenses should be cut instead of capital improvements and Parks and Rec services.
“If this commission is going to play politics, then I am sorry, our services for the residents cannot be cut, and that means our employees, fire trucks that run, having a fleet that has gas in the cars, and roadways that don’t have potholes and streets that are clean,” said Gomez.
Bolton said he supported the cuts and took it even further, saying he wanted to remove all the event budgets and the initiative fund, get away with the car and PDA allowance, get rid of the community engagement liaisons completely, and finally, cut the commissioners’ salaries in half.
However, when asked to vote on the removal of the car allowance, Bolton said “he will not bifurcate” his suggestion — or divide — making it an “all or nothing” deal, prompting Villalobos to call him out for making an empty proposal knowing it will never be approved.
Commissioner Debra Placko, who will retire in November, said she did not feel comfortable deciding on a car allowance for a future commissioner sitting in her seat.
With not enough votes to remove the car allowance, the commissioners then failed to find consensus on the proposed budget as is, with only Gelin voting yes.
The commission then underwent a rare procedure of reconsidering an item that had already been voted on. After another discussion, approved the budget 3-2, with Bolton and Villalobos voting no.
The final public hearing for the city budget is scheduled for Thursday, September 22, at 5.05 p.m., at the City Commission chambers.
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- Agrippina Fadel grew up in Siberia and received her master's in journalism from Tyumen State University. Agrippina is also a writer and editor at Draftsy.net. She has been a US resident for over ten years and speaks English and Russian.
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