Rejection of fire tax leaves Delray Beach struggling to close deficit

DELRAY BEACH, Fla. - Delray Beach's finances are suddenly out-of-whack as city leaders begin trying to figure out how to close a budget deficit they weren't expecting.

On Tuesday, the city commission voted down a so-called fire fee, a bill that taxpayers would've had to pay towards fire service.

But taxpayers said they couldn't afford it, and now leaders are expecting cuts in services to make up for the lost revenue.

To put it in perspective, the size of Delray Beach's budget hole is the same as a $50,000 a year worker suddenly losing $145 a month in salary.

Delray Beach is short $3.2 million on its $93 million dollar budget.

"I don't think there's one particular aspect that you can say where, if we do this, we're going to solve this crisis," said Commissioner Tom Carney.

Carney says that could mean laying off employees, closing city hall once a week, or combing the budget line-by-line.

"It's still a big enough budget I believe that we can find if we are prepared to address all aspects, the shortfall," said Carney.

It's not as if the past few years have been pain-free.

The city has cut $10 million from the budget since 2007.

But Commissioner Adam Frankel says things are so bad now that funding for festivals like the July 4th fireworks show and events at the tennis center should be looked at again.

"People in Delray Beach, its visitors, have come to expect a high level of service and events," said Frankel. "There's going to be downfall."

Restaurants that do big business during the July 4th festivities are trying to stay optimistic, even with all the financial gloom around them.

"City commissioners, I believe, will make the right decision," said John Gergen, the owner of Cafe Luna Rosa. "I'm sure that we will have fireworks."

We tried several times to ask the city manager what steps he'd taken on Wednesday to begin work on budget cuts, but were told he wasn't available to comment until Friday.

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