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Florida Is Aging. Broward Has A Plan To Help, But It Needs A Reluctant Legisalture To Agree

Man and woman sit on a bench facing the sea
Matthew Bennett

Within the next decade, 25% of Floridians will be over 60, and so will most new residents relocating to the state. As Florida grays, there’s greater demands on healthcare and related services. State funding has fallen behind. Now Broward County thinks it has an idea to address the coming “Silver Tsunami” but it needs the legislature to help.

Broward has long been a popular destination for retirees, drawn by the sea, sunshine and shopping. The state's second-largest county projects to see a huge surge in over-60 residents in the coming years as the last of the baby boomers enter their 60s. It's being called a silver tsunami. This graying population will need programs and services that don't yet exist, and to pay for it all, Broward leaders want to collect property taxes through a new separate entity known as an independent taxing district called a senior services council.

“I think I’d be for that, because whether or not I’d be involved at my age, it would probably be for the future,” says 95-year-old Pembroke Pines resident Sophie Boch. She likes the idea of a council that works on senior issues.

“The seniors, there are so many of us, we need additional protection. It’s a dire need. So many of us, if something comes up, who do you go to?” she says.

Broward voters would have to approve the taxing district, but there's a catch: The idea needs the approval of the Legislature. A leading advocate of the idea is Broward Commissioner Nan Rich, a former Democratic legislator.

“The goal is to try and educate the legislature to the fact that they are not taxing anyone…you’re not raising a tax. You’re allowing the voters in Broward County to decide whether they want to tax themselves for a very important reason.”

But convincing conservative Republicans to endorse a possible new tax will not be easy, especially in an election year session. One of the people Broward would have to convince is Rep. Jamie Grant, R-Tampa,  who's very skeptical.

“It is a construct of state statute, there’s a reason they have to come to us…t’s not to pick on Broward or pick it’s not to pick on the issue, I’m just not a fan of ever-expanding number of special districts and increasing taxes,” he says.

Taxpayers in Broward have repeatedly taxed themselves to pay for all kinds of improvements, from school construction to attacking its chronic traffic congestion. Twenty years ago, voters approved the creation of a Children's Services Council that coordinates nearly a hundred programs for the county' s youngest residents. Rich says she has no doubt that a special tax district for seniors would be well-received by voters in November.   

Broward's Democrat-dominated legislative delegation is an island of liberalism in a conservative Capitol. The bill creating a special taxing district for senior services, House Bill 983, has not yet been scheduled for a hearing. 

Steve Bousquet has covered state government and politics for three decades at the Sun Sentinel, Tampa Bay Times and Miami Herald. He was the Times' Tallahassee bureau chief from 2005 to 2018 and has also covered city and county politics in Broward County. He has a master's degree in U.S. history from Florida State.