It must be fall. The heat has lost its edge, children are back in school and the fiscal year begins again for County government. While the summer is a slower time for some families, your elected officials and their staffs have been busy finalizing a budget, passing ordinances and creating services – all designed to make life a little bit easier during a difficult time for many of you.
Good News About Taxes
Your County tax rate will not increase in the wake of the budget approved by the County Commission on September 27, covering the fiscal year that begins October 1.
Thanks to months of struggle by the commission and staff to trim expenses, the millage rate remains at 5.553 including payments on long-term debts. The total budget that relies on taxes, fees, grants and other sources is $3.7 billion. I am very, very proud of our staff’s fiscal expertise and the commission’s fiscal responsibility.
The staff saved money in a number of ways which included cutting positions and freezing wages. The County’s fiscal health is so strong that the County has a better bond rating than the federal government.
While the tax rate stays flat, some taxpayers may see an increase in their actual tax payment if the appraisal of their property’s value increased or if their municipality raised their millage rate.
Believe It If You See It
If you’ve ever been charged more for gasoline than the station’s road sign advertised, the Broward County Commission has stepped in to help.
This summer, I spearheaded the amendment of an ordinance that was passed by the commission which outlaws the deceptive and misleading pricing of gasoline. Stations now must post the highest possible price you'll be charged, whether you're paying with cash, a credit card or a debit card.
Paying for gas should not be guesswork. Now when you see a posted price at the gas station, you'll know that's the most you'll be charged. It should eliminate the bait and switch practice of advertising one price if you pay with cash and a higher non-advertised price if you use a credit or debit card.
Also, gasoline stations offering full and self-service must clearly state the words "Self-Service" on the sign if the price refers to self-service pumps only.
Failure to comply can result in a $250 fine for the first violation and $500 for repeated violations. The ordinance applies countywide, except in cities with existing rules and regulations.
Get On The Bus
Bus riders can sample the newest I-595 Express bus route for free through Friday, October 5. The new service shuttles riders between the Westgate Square Shopping Center, at State Road 84 and Weston Road in Sunrise, and the Miami Civic Center.
Service is offered only on weekdays, about every 30 minutes during morning and afternoon peak travel times. New hybrid buses provide free Wi-Fi access, 12-volt power outlets for charging electronic equipment and high-back seats. Complimentary parking at the park-and-ride lot is available if you have a 595 Express bus parking hangtag, obtained by calling (800) 234-RIDE or visiting www.1800234ride.com.
The new schedule and fares are available at broward.org/bct. You can also purchase passes online and at the Main Bus Terminal and several regional libraries.
More good news for bus riders: Three popular routes have gained added trips and their schedules have been adjusted: Route 1 on Sundays, Route 10 on weekdays, and Route 48 on weekdays and Saturday. Schedules are also being adjusted on the 595 Express run between Sunrise’s BB&T Center to Miami/Brickell Avenue, and the run between the BB&T Center to Fort Lauderdale.
New timetables and route information are printed in brochures currently available at terminals and libraries, and are posted online. For more information, visit broward.org/bct or call the customer service center at 954-357-8400 (TTY 954-357-8302).
Transparency on the Television
Residents wanting to monitor County government meetings or simply learn more about Broward County’s services need only turn on their television.
“Broward County TV” features live broadcasts of the County Commission’s Tuesday meetings beginning at 10 a.m., as well as Purchasing Division bid openings at 2 p.m. on Wednesdays. The commission meetings are rebroadcast at 5:30 p.m. Fridays.
The meetings are shown on AT&T’s U-verse Channel 99, Comcast Cable Channels 12 and 77, and Advanced Communications, Channels 64 and 25. Viewers can also watch the live meetings, bid openings and on-demand videos through the County's website on Video Central at broward.org/video.
Additionally, the channel broadcasts a library of educational programs about Broward’s history, transportation, public safety, emergency preparedness and environmental programs on recycling, water conservation, solar power and ways to go green. A complete program guide is available at broward.org/video.
A Different Kind of Smoking Hazard
That car or truck ahead of you belching smoke out of its exhaust pipe is more than an eyesore, it endangers your health -- and it’s illegal. If it’s your automobile that’s causing the hazard, you need to repair the car; if you see a vehicle polluting the atmosphere, the county has provided a way to report it.
By County ordinance, a “smoking vehicle” is any car, bus or truck that generates smoke for more than five seconds. The black and grey plumes are tiny soot and pollution particles that lodge in your lungs and contribute to respiratory diseases such as asthma and emphysema; they have even been linked to cancer.
To anonymously report such a vehicle, call the Complaint Line at 954-519-1499, or visit broward.org/air and click REPORT SMOKING VEHICLES to complete an online form. The complaint should include the license plate number, make/type and color of vehicle, the date and time that you saw the vehicle, and the closest intersection or address.
Motor vehicles account for more than 50 percent of the air pollution in Broward County. About 30 percent of the area’s greenhouse gas emissions come from passenger cars and light duty trucks. Smoking vehicles generate 10 to 15 times more pollution than well-tuned vehicles. They also contribute 20 to 30 percent of the soot and particles in the air.
It also makes economic sense to keep your car repaired: A smoking vehicle uses more oil and gasoline. The longer it goes without being repaired, the more damage may be done to the engine. That means higher repair costs for you in the long run.
Find a Friend and Help the Animal Care Center
If you’ve been thinking about adopting a dog or cat later this year, October would be the perfect time to visit Broward County’s Animal Care and Adoption Center.
For the rest of the month, the center is trying to find good homes and save the lives of 1,636 animals as it competes in the 2012 ASPCA Rachael Ray $100K Challenge Event. To qualify for the $100,000 grand prize, the center must adopt out 300 more animals in August through October than it did in the previous year, although there are smaller awards for other benchmarks. It has placed more than 700 pets so far.
Broward County’s Animal Care and Adoption provides shelter for lost and surrendered animals as well as the adoption of homeless pets. The agency also registers pets and provides rabies vaccinations. Animal Care has two locations, 1870 S.W. 39 St., Fort Lauderdale, and 3100 N.W. 19 Terrace, Pompano Beach.
For more information, visit broward.org/Animal or Twitter.com/BrowardPetPals or on Facebook.com/BrowardPets.
More Changes on I-595
Despite Hurricane Isaac and an unusually rainy summer, the massive I-595 overhaul is still expected to be completed before or by the deadline in late 2014. While the traffic snarls have been far fewer than some people expected, motorists must pay more attention to the ever-changing patterns of when and where to get on and off the highway.
Several more temporary changes are expected in October, even though some previously announced entrance/exit closures will not last as long as expected. Watch the informational signs along the roadways for the most up-to-date information.
Toward the end of October, two specific changes are expected to affect eastbound traffic. First, right past the Davie Road exit, eastbound I-595 through-traffic will be diverted temporarily into the newly-created express lanes near the center of the highway. Once on this stretch of I-595 you will not be able to access SR 84/SR 7/U.S. 441 or Florida’s Turnpike.
Second, a NEW combined exit (to the east of the existing Davie Road exit) will give motorists access to SR 84/SR 7/ U.S. 441 plus Florida’s Turnpike. The Davie Road exit will remain “as-is” (currently) from I-595. Motorists who are entering eastbound I-595 FROM Davie Road will use the new ramp system.
It’s Not Just a Right; It’s a Responsibility
No matter who you support, please take time to vote in the upcoming elections. You have until October 9 to register if you haven’t already. The actual process to vote is easier than ever: absentee ballot, early voting or going to your precinct poll on Tuesday, November 6. More information about all your options is available at browardsoe.org/.