For months, Broward commissioners have been talking about slashing more than $100 million from their budget to make up for declining property tax revenues, but is such a move really likely?
Simply put -- no.
Next week commissioners will receive details about a budget cut scenario that involves raising the tax rate just enough to bring in the same amount of tax revenues as this year. That would still lead to a cut -- about $45 million. If commissioners don't raise the tax rate, the cuts would be as high as $129 million.
"As hardline as some of them have been about this issue, I don't think they go that far,'' Commissioner Kristin Jacobs said, referring to the highest potential amount for cuts.
Commissioners will also likely discuss whether to dip into $100 million in reserves or about $300 million set aside for capital projects to reduce cuts.
Several commissioners are expected to support some level of tax rate increase, but expect them to blame Sheriff Al Lamberti if they vote for it. The county and Lamberti are in a fight about how much he should cut from his budget -- so far the county has asked him to cut more than $50 million. Lamberti has proposed a budget with a slight increase that curbs growth by laying off 177 workers and shutting down several jail programs by Aug. 1. Steeper cuts would hurt public safety, Lamberti has warned.
Commissioners say he shouldn't have approved a union contract last year while he was seeking the union's endorsement that includes raises up to 12 percent.
"If the sheriff continues to refuse to reduce his budget he may cause a tax increase,'' Commissioner Ilene Lieberman said.
In an email through a spokesman, Lamberti fired back saying that Lieberman's comments are a ''ridiculous and insulting assertion.''
"Instead of making such an incendiary statement maybe Commissioner Lieberman should give a closer look into prioritizing the services of county government,'' Lamberti wrote.
Mayor Stacy Ritter said she is against a tax rate increase.
"I think the public has made it very clear they want us to live within our means,'' she said.