BY MIKE RYAN
In 2009, the Broward County Auditor was asked to examine BSO contracts with municipalities. Why?
Some speculated the County Commission was subsidizing BSO contract operations rather than BSO fully recovering the costs through the contracts.
Some Broward Residents Have Been Double Taxed
Turns out, according to the County Auditor, some residents of Broward County were subsidizing BSO contracts … $14,400,000 per year.
In the County Auditor’s words, “[Residents of some cities are] paying twice – they are paying for their own city and they are paying to subsidize these other cities”.
Tip of the Iceberg?
It apparently goes farther.
As part of the effort to regionalize and consolidate E911 dispatch functions, we learned the County Commission has also been subsidizing tens of millions of dollars for BSO communications services.
How much? Estimated to be about another $20,000,000 … per year.
For how long? Who knows, but certainly for many years.
Who has the answers? I have asked the County Auditor the “why”, “how long”, and “how much” questions.
Bottom line: Some residents have been double-taxed even more than we thought and for longer than we knew.
Some Residents Entitled to Refund?
The Sunrise City Commission voted unanimously to prepare the necessary documents to initiate statutory pre-litigation proceedings against the County Commission related to past, current and future funding of E911 call taking and dispatch communications.
Pembroke Pines and Fort Lauderdale have already initiated pre-litigation efforts, arguing E911 is a regional service that should be funded by the County. By the way, that’s what the County Commission’s own Implementation Board recommended TWICE and municipalities representing 87% of the County’s population requested.
But, five County Commissioners voted otherwise.
If a majority of the County Commission says E911 is not a regional service to be funded through countywide ad valorem, then why did the County Commission subsidize BSO communications with our ad valorem dollars for many years?
And, if not a regional service, then maybe some residents are entitled to tens of millions of dollars in refunds!
County Commission Making it Harder on the Sheriff
The argument is NOT that BSO contract municipalities should be paying more for communications, either in the past or the future. Instead, we should be asking why was it okay for the County Commission to fund E911 operations with ad valorem … then, but not now … for some, but not us?
Other municipalities, such as Hollywood, Coral Springs, Plantation, Coconut Creek, Margate and Hillsboro Beach, may have similar legal arguments.
The County is now intending to cutoff the subsidy and wants to force BSO to increase costs on contract municipalities. But, those municipalities may resist the cost increases, even if their contracts do not specifically charge for communications. When they contracted for BSO emergency services, municipalities expected the police and fire personnel would actually be dispatched to emergencies, not just paid to park somewhere.
The Sheriff has inherited quite a mess … and five of the County Commissioners haven’t made it any easier.
Solution: Implement and fund a consolidated E911 Communications system like a true regional service, as recommended by the Implementation Board and requested by municipalities representing 87% of the County’s population. Then, we can all move on.
It would have taken only one vote to avoid the predicted chaos.
(Michael Ryan is mayor of Sunrise and co-chaired the Broward County Consolidate Communications Committee along with Broward County Commissioner Lois Wexler.)