Tamarac to force neglectful homeowners to pay clean-up bills

Article Courtesy of The 

By Lisa Huriash

Published July 18, 2013


TAMARAC -- If the city had to clean up your blackened swimming pool, overgrown grass attracting rats and snakes, or the swarm of bees in the backyard, it will now make sure you pay for it.

Now, the city will add the cleanup fee to the property tax bill. 

This way, if an owner doesn't pay, a tax deed certificate is "sold" at auction. The homeowner could eventually lose their home if they refuse to pay their taxes, plus interest.

The move comes as the city has shelled out money to hire cleanup crews, only to place a lien on the property and wait years for the home to be sold to be able to collect. Or, the city loses their money outright when the homeowner eventually walks away, either through foreclosure or bankruptcy. 

The "nuisance abatement assessment" for 17 homes will vary from $289.91 to $1,113.57. 

Taxes get paid first, before the mortgage," said Mark Mason, the finance director.

Tamarac hopes to recover $8,600 in assessments. It's part of a growing trend: Sunrise, Hallandale Beach and West Palm Beach already tack the recuperation fees onto property tax bills. Hollywood approved this in February.

The nuisance assessment is part of Tamarac's proposed $47 million budget being ironed out now by commissioners. In the proposal, most residents will pay more in taxes. The tax rate will be slightly lower, but owners of single-family homes without homestead exemptions will pay about 4 percent more than last year because property values have increased. Owners of condos without homestead exemptions will see a jump of more than 9 percent. Owners with homestead exemptions for both houses and condos will see a spike of almost two percent.

With the additional revenue, the city is planning projects for the upcoming two years, including: $3 million to replace a fire station on Commercial Boulevard; $450,000 for roof replacements on a second fire station and two other city buildings; almost $2 million to build a fire station on University Drive; $1.3 million to replace two fire engines and almost $400,000 for vehicle and equipment replacement.

The annual stormwater fee $121.80 per house or condo is going down to $110.33 and will now also go on the tax bill, not the water bill. "It's a better collection method," Mason said. "We do have delinquencies" with stormwater fee collections.

Water and wastewater rates will rise an estimated 6.75 percent; the final number will be determined later this month.

Other fees on the tax bill are staying the same: $273.75 a year for solid waste collection for single-family homeowners only, and $265 a year for fire service for all homeowners. 

Some perks are proposed to be restored in the upcoming year. The city is now planning on re-opening the parks on Mondays during federal holidays and school winter and spring vacations. In late 2010, as part of its budget cuts, all city parks were closed on Mondays. 

"We recognize people are off, kids are out of school," Mason said. "Having a place to go is a good thing."