By Saraana Jamraj
During their first virtual meeting since the COVID-19 crisis began, the Tamarac City Commission voted to increase filing fees to run for office, to offset the costs of a new filing software.
The fee currently required to file for running for city commissioner is $10, and the fee for mayor is $25 and has been since 1975.
On April 22, the commission voted to raise the fee to run for city commissioner to $500, and the price to run for mayor to $750.
It’s a steep increase — 3,000 and 5,000 percent, respectively.
However, due to the filing fee not being updated in 45 years, and the need to compensate for the cost of a new filing software, the commission viewed it as a necessary increase.
City Clerk Jennifer Johnson and staff surveyed the filing fees for running for office of neighboring cities, such as North Lauderdale, Coral Springs, and Parkland. They found that they were of similar rates — often five percent of the annual salary of the office a candidate is running for.
In other cities, such as Hollywood, Lauderdale Lakes, and Pembroke Pines, the were three percent of the annual salary of the office.
For all other cities, there was a flat fee between $25 and $500.
The filing software the commission is looking at using, VR, is one used by all 67 counties in Florida.
“Currently, municipalities are not required to file online, but given the situation, with the coronavirus, it’s probably an impetus for us to move forward with this,” said Johnson.
She explained that an electronic filing system would streamline the reporting process, allow candidates to be logged on with face cards in place, and come with several vendor options.
The Broward County Supervisor of Elections is allowing cities to opt-in this system— including Coconut Creek, Southwest Ranches, Lauderhill, and Parkland — which Johnson put in place while city clerk for that city.
The opt-in fee to use the electronic system used by the Supervisor of Elections is $4,000 and comes with an annual fee of $1,900 that the commission hopes to offset by increasing the filing fees for running for office.
“I think it’s about time we upgrade,” said Commissioner Mike Gelin.
Mayor Michelle Gomez and the commission agreed. The ordinance passed on the first reading, 5-0. If it passes on the second reading, it will be in effect for the November 3, 2020 election—where candidates would have to pay the new rates between for the qualifying period of June 8 and June 12, 2020.
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- Saraana Selene Jamraj is a writer, activist, and a student pursuing her master's degree in mass communications at Florida International University.
She's currently the communications manager at The Salt Box in Parkland and has lived in Coral Springs since 2004.
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