Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Tough times in Southwest Ranches

Dear Southwest Ranches Friends and Neighbors:

Good Morning, Good Afternoon, Good Evening and if I don’t see you later…well then…Good Night!

Thursday, 9/17 at 7 PM is the final budget hearing for the Town ofSouthwest Ranches. It is this Wanch’s opinion that the Town Council should show leadership and cut taxes. Give the residents a break! Cut the waste, reduce service and allow people to spend their money on other things like food and clothing.

If you feel strongly one way or the other voice your opinion to the council tomorrow night. See below for an article published today in the Sun Sentinel.

That’s All Folks!!!

Wanch Waggler

South Florida

Tough times in Southwest Ranches

With final budget vote looming, town lacks money for basic needs

By Susannah Bryan

South Florida Sun-Sentinel

5:05 PM EDT, September 16, 2009


For nine years, this semi-rural town with the leave-us-alone attitude has boasted one of the lowest tax rates in the county.

No more.

Southwest Ranches faces spiraling costs and its highest tax rate yet, along with a $350 fire fee -- the highest in
Broward County.

On Thursday at 7 p.m., council members will take a final vote on an $11.2 million budget for the next fiscal year starting Oct. 1.

Even with its mansions and $1.2 billion in assessed property value, the 13-square-mile town doesn't have the money to build its own public safety and Town Hall complex, for an estimated $7 million. Nor does it have the millions needed to repair its roads or cure its drainage woes, Councilman Freddy Fisikelli said.

"In the past, we weren't taking in enough money to pay our bills and we still aren't," said Fisikelli.

Like Fisikelli, longtime resident
Bob Hartmann worries Southwest Ranches, founded in 2000, might be gobbled up one day by an adjoining city like Davie, Pembroke Pines or Weston -- a worst-case scenario, he concedes.

Marygay Chaples, the town's historian, insists it will never come to that.

"It won't happen while I'm alive," said Chaples, a 50-year resident of the area. "We will fight to the bloody end to keep what we've got."

Even if it means higher taxes for the town's 3,200 homeowners, she said.

"That's the price you pay for being in a rural community," said Vice Mayor Steve Breitkreuz, who blames the fiscal crisis on previous officials.

"I certainly don't think we're on the edge of being taken over by another town," Breitkreuz said. "But I do think it's time to right the ship and live within our means."

Town Administrator Charles Lynn, hired in May as the third man to run Town Hall, oversees 11 employees and a $5.9 million contract with the Broward Sheriff's Office for police and fire service.

The town contracts most of its services to private companies and nearby cities, but may need to bring some functions in-house to save money,
Lynn said.

"We have been tightening our belts -- we're whacking and cutting and carrying on," said

Southwest Ranches, which borrowed $5 million to incorporate and has $2.2 million in reserves, is no worse off than any other municipality in the region, according to

Under his budget proposal, the town's 8,500 residents will see their tax rate increase from $3.50 to $3.94 per $1,000 of assessed property value. With the higher tax rate, the town expects to collect $4.5 million in property taxes next year -- the same as last year.

The plan to raise the fire fee from $296 to $350 would add $1.2 million to town coffers. Increasing the solid waste assessment from $562 to $687 would add $1.5 million.

Even with the tax increase, it's still not enough to run the town, said Fisikelli, who disagrees with
Lynn's claim Southwest Ranches is no worse off than elsewhere.

"Our financial condition is worse than other cities," Fisikelli said. "We don't have the revenue to support the town. That's our problem."

With no plans to grow in size or population, Southwest Ranches has to make do with its current tax base. With only one small commercial plaza, the tax base is nearly all residential.

Some residents say they expect their taxes and fees to keep creeping higher, but that doesn't mean they like it.

"We have sat here for nine years and have not been able to fix but one road and that was a small road," said Chaples. "And now they want to raise rates."

Hartmann would pay an additional $283 in taxes and fees next year under
Lynn's plan.

"The bottom line is we aren't going to have enough money to run the town without raising taxes," he said. "I don't want to move because I get taxed out of the neighborhood."

Resident Vince Falletta wants to see budget cuts, not higher fees.

"Don't tell me I have to raise taxes in order to save the town," Falletta said. "We need to cut the budget to save the town."

The good news, optimists say: Bankruptcy is not an option.

"Towns don't go broke," Fisikelli said. "They just raise taxes."

Susannah Bryan can be reached at or 954-572-2077.

Copyright © 2009, South Florida Sun-Sentinel


Buford T. Justice said...


You seem to be in the loop and in the know about this town; maybe you can shed some light and some wisdom on this 7 million dollar Town Hall that is proposed. Maybe answer a few questions if you know the answers.

1. Is the Town of Southwest Ranches in jeopardy of losing its space at the water district location where it sits now?

2. Can a portion of the acreage that the water control district (SBDD I think) be purchased and the building that currently houses the Town Hall be moved over a bit or included in a property sale?

3. Wouldn’t a purchase or even a 99-year lease of the location and current Town Hall building be less expensive than 7 million?

4. Does the Town of Southwest Ranches really NEED a state of the art Town Hall complex at this time or could it wait a few years until the town had some money?

Anonymous said...

We don't need an Aster Knight "Taj Mahal". If the man needs a legacy plant a freekin tree!

Show Aster the "Don Maines Exit Door"!