A tipster sent us word that Lauderdale Lakes has a very thin wallet these days -- so thin that the city hasn't paid the Broward County Sheriff's Office in months, leaving the police no choice but to reduce services.
It turns out our tipster is right: Lauderdale Lakes is in quite a financial bind. Judging from the budget numbers in the city's 2010-2011 "Budget-In-Brief" document, we estimate that Lauderdale Lakes owes the Sheriff's Department $2 million to $3 million.
Police services account for 25 percent of Lauderdale Lakes' overall budget, and the city owes the Broward County Sheriff's office for four months of service.
The following is Sheriff Lamberti's statement on the situation:
As some of you may have heard, the City of Lauderdale Lakes is currently behind on payments for both fire rescue and law enforcement services. This non-payment status extends back to August of this year and the city is currently in arrears for the past four months. As a result of this financial burden, we have no choice but to scale back services to the residents of Lauderdale Lakes. The ladder truck currently at Station 37 will be decommissioned (hopefully temporarily) in order to meet the lowered cost of providing fire service in the city. There will also be transfers of sergeants, deputies and CSAs from their current assignments to other locations within the Department of Law Enforcement - those transfers have not been finalized yet. Let me be clear, we are not abandoning the residents of Lauderdale Lakes, but during these strained economic times, I have an obligation to the taxpayers of Broward County to ensure that services are provided based on allocated funding. We are currently without a contract and the budget adopted by the Broward County Board of Commissioners is the baseline we are using to provide public safety services. I am optimistic that this reduction in force is a temporary "stop gap" measure to assist the city in developing a long term plan for financial accountability and sustainability in providing important public safety services to the residents of Lauderdale Lakes.
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Like the budgets of many cities, Lauderdale Lakes' was hit hard in the past two years as taxable property values dropped significantly (21 percent, according to Lauderdale Lakes budget documents). In 2008, the city scaled back spending with layoffs, changed to a four-day workweek, and reduced operating expenses by 10 percent. With this news of its debt to the Broward County Sherrif's Office, it seems the city's belt can't get much tighter without cutting off vital operations.
We contacted a Lauderdale Lakes representative and will update if we receive new information.
UPDATE: This is the statement released by Lauderdale Lakes.
The City of Lauderdale Lakes currently owes $2.4 million in payment to Broward Sheriff's Office (BSO) for FY 2010. Revenue reductions and the lack of collection of outstanding receivables have caused a cash flow issue and precluded the City of Lauderdale Lakes from paying BSO in a timely manner since August 2010. The City has planned to remit payment and come to a contract agreement with BSO by December 2010.
Based on revenue trends over the past two years, as well as the large portion of the City's budget (60% of the general fund) that is paid to BSO, payment for FY2011 will also be a challenge. As such, City administration is working with BSO to reduce its current budget levels to better manage the City's finances. BSO has already begun to make changes to its staffing complement in Lauderdale Lakes so as to not incur additional expenses. The City is also looking at other reductions citywide.
In addition, the City has acquired debt in the past for various acquisitions and construction of major capital projects. The City's total debt due within FY 2011 paid through its general fund is approximately $1,643,959.