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Broward commission rejects property tax cut, agrees to replace BSO helicopter

Broward County Mayor Lamar P. Fisher, Commissioner Michael Udine and Commissioner Steve Geller during a Broward County workshop meeting on Tuesday, January 6, 2023.
Carline Jean
South Florida Sun Sentinel
Broward County Mayor Lamar P. Fisher, Commissioner Michael Udine and Commissioner Steve Geller during a Broward County workshop meeting on Tuesday, January 6, 2023.

Broward County commissioners rejected a proposal to decrease the property tax rate Thursday night during the first public hearing to approve their $8.6 billion budget.

The cut, proposed by District 3 Commissioner Michael Udine, was minor — .02% — and would have saved the average property owner about $5 a year on taxes.

"If you're not going to be able to do it now, when are you going to be able to do it? Property values went way up. This at least bends the curve and gives taxpayers a little bit of a break," he told WLRN.

Udine contends that property values have increased by 11% and the county has paid down enough of its debt. But it was shot down by other commissioners who argued that the cut would reduce funds from capital improvement projects and reserves.

More than a dozen residents signed up to speak, many of them worried about paying their increased tax bill.

"I think they want to see significant savings...But if we're going to do it, we have to look at what programs we're going to cut and what services we're going to cut. And we can't do this tonight," District 2 Commissioner Mark Bogen said in addressing Udine's proposal.

The county property tax rate is expected to remain at 5.669%, or $5.66 for every $1,000 of taxable value, which is decided by the county's property appraiser office.

More than 543,000 homes in Broward — about 63% — are owner-occupied. The median mortgage: $1,985, according to the latest Census data.

The nine-member commission will hold a final vote on the tax rate and the budget on September 19.

Udine's proposed cut would have set the rate at 5.645% and, according to County Administrator Monica Ceper,o would have saved the average property owner with a homestead exception $4.24 a year on taxes.

READ MORE: BSO helicopter crash casts spotlight on aging aviation unit

New Helicopter

Commissioners also cleared the way to purchase a rescue helicopter to replace the Broward Sheriff's helicopter that crashed on August 28, killing two people.

The $15 million will come from reserves from this year's and last year's budget.

"It's important that we immediately replace that aircraft," Mayor Lamar Fisher told reporters after the budget meeting.

The mayor and Sheriff Gregory Tony said helicopter manufacturer Airbus is offering a chance to purchase two new air rescue helicopters that could be available within six months. The process usually takes two to three years, the mayor said.

The Airbus H145 can accommodate up to three crew members for emergency medical services missions, according to the company's website.

Tony said BSO needs six helicopters to handle the high volume of emergency calls. It currently has three helicopters left.

"My goal is to recover not only what we need now, but having a long−term strategy to make sure, regardless who's standing here as a sheriff or who's standing in that dais as commissioners, they will always have the best, latest and greatest aviation unit flying overhead," Tony told reporters at press conference days after the crash.

The commissioners, except Vice Mayor Nan Rich who was not in attendance, voted to approve the funds for the new helicopter and will vote on the money for the new aircraft and the budget on September 19.

Learn more about the proposed Broward County FY24 budget here.

Contact Broward County Commissioners here.

Gerard Albert III covers Broward County. He is a former WLRN intern who graduated from Florida International University. He can be reached atgalbert@wlrnnews.org
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