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Hollywood Commissioners Take On Multi-Million Budget Shortfall

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HOLLYWOOD (CBS4) – Raising taxes, increasing fees and reducing employee benefits will all be on the block when Hollywood commissioners meet in a workshop Thursday to try to figure out how to bridge a $25 million budget gap for the upcoming year.

Last May, the city declared a financial emergency, laid off 18 employees and imposed across the board pay cuts when the budget office informed the commission there was $10.3 million short fall this year.

In addition to the terminations and pay cuts, the city also pulled about $7 million out of its reserves, according to CBS4 news partner The Miami Herald, leaving only about $3.7 million in their ‘rainy day’ fund. That amount is less than half of what the state requires.

“We are in probably seeing the most difficult budget the city has faced since maybe the depression,” said Finance and Information Director Matt Lalla.

Last month long-time Hollywood City Manager Cameron Benson was ousted over the $10 million shortfall. Benson, 49, stepped down June 15th after Mayor Peter Bober called for his dismissal. In his defense Benson said he took full responsibility for the day-to-day affairs but found it “a little unfair” to be targeted for the budget crisis. He will get nearly $300,000 in a severance package.

On Wednesday the commission agreed to cut their salaries by 10 percent.

Mayor Peter Bober has said cutting special events and some employee benefits would be one way to build up the city’s reserves. He also said city planners need to do a better job of predicting revenue and expenses.

For example, the city estimated that it would see $1.8 million in revenue by using cameras at intersections to ticket red-light violators. In reality, the city now expects to only see about half a million.

In an effort to ‘get their house in order’, city has reorganized the budget office and signed a separation agreement with director Cynthia Forrester who will leave next month.

Bober said a key goal the commission needs to accomplish is coming up with a priority list so they can prioritize the essentials and figure out where they can tighten their belts more.

(©2011 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All rights reserved.  This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. CBS4 news partner The Miami Herald contributed material for this report)

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