HOLLYWOOD (CBS4) – Hollywood commissioners unanimously approved the city budget that had pitted the financially strapped city against its unions.
They approved a budget which sees the voter-approved cutting of pensions for hundreds of city workers, including police and firemen.
Only 14% of the city’s registered turned out to vote last week — that’s 11,868 voters. Voters approved cuts to both police and fire pensions by a 55-45 margin and approved cutting city workers pensions by a 58-42 percentage.
The city will save $8.5 million dollars, a crucial step in the city’s plan to fill a $38 million dollar budget gap.
Those affected by the pension cuts say they city is playing dirty politics.
“The day of the election they told the public that if you don’t come vote against the cops and firemen that your taxes are going to go up 23 percent,” said Jeff Marano, Vice President of the Broward County Police Benevolent Association. “So people came to the polls and told us ‘hey I’m not really voting against you, I’m voting against the tax increase’.”
According to the city, the changes mean that police officers and firefighters will not be able to retire with full benefits until they are between 52 and 55 years old. City employees will have to wait until they are 60-65 years old.
The city said the changes preserve what workers have earned and only changes their pension formulas going forward. It also grandfathers in workers with 10 years or more of experience.
Tom Lander has lived in Hollywood for 18 years says the cuts should have come from elsewhere.
“I think right now we are in a difficult situation,” said Lander. “I think we need to pay the people that work for us the city employees deserve pay and their pension.”
City leaders say they are doing what is necessary to keep the city afloat.
“We borrowed a lot of money. We used a lot of reserves we didn’t cut back just like family budgets,” said Hollywood Interim City Manager Cathy Swanson-Rivenbark . “When you have less revenue you need to cut back we over-estimated what are revenues would be and all those things have changed for the 2012 budget.”
In addition to the pension cuts, the city will look to impose an 11 percent increase in property taxes and fire fees.
“It’s very difficult we are experiencing the same problems that other cities are feeling,” said Hollywood Mayor Peter Bober. “Other cities that have not reached the point that we are at they will be reaching that
point next year and a year after that we are trying to take proactive measure so we can still remain a solvent city.”
The Unions said this isn’t over. They plan on exploring their options maybe even taking legal action. At this time it’s unclear if the unions have a case.