The Village of Royal Palm Beach unveiled its proposed budget for fiscal year 2017-18 on Friday, June 30. The village will spend nearly $49 million to provide services to residents next year.
The budget comes in at approximately $10 million more than the current year, with the majority of the difference coming in capital improvement projects.
Village Manager Ray Liggins noted a 50 percent split between money allocated to the general fund and to capital improvements — close to $24 million for each.
“This is a significant increase in capital [improvements] — over $10 million because of the impact fee increases, because of growth and the sales tax,” he said.
That includes money from the new 1-cent sales surtax passed by county voters. Royal Palm Beach will see $2.6 million of that surtax money in its budget next year.
There are several different capital improvements funds — recreational facilities, community beautification, impact fees, sales surtax, general capital improvements, stormwater capital improvements and utilities. The sales surtax and stormwater capital are newly added funds. All the capital fund projects are on five-year budget plans.
“The accounts are anywhere from $100,000 in the beautification fund all the way to $6.5 million in the general capital fund of new monies. Of course, we have carryover monies. That’s what makes up the $24 million,” Liggins said. “I think we have some interesting projects. In the impact fee fund for next year, we’re going to finish up the Commons Park restrooms and the stage. That’s under construction right now. But, the Cultural Center remodel and expansion is our biggest project for next year.”
The Cultural Center expansion project comes out to more than $2 million and is the largest project under impact fees, Liggins said.
The stormwater improvement fund is partially financed by increasing the village’s stormwater management fee 50 cents — from $4 to $4.50. Improvements include fixing drainage near Camelia Park, but most of the revenue will fund stormwater maintenance operations, Liggins said.
Total general fund operating expenses will increase by 2.44 percent, or about $1.1 million over the current year. The main increase to operations is due to higher personnel costs, with one of the biggest increases being in employee healthcare, Liggins said.
“It’s pretty even across the board as far as departments,” he said.
No increase is proposed in the village’s property tax rate, which will remain at 1.92 mills, or at $1.92 per $1,000 of taxable property value. However, rising property values will see the village take in more money from property taxes next year. Total village property values have increased by 7.4 percent to more than $2.6 billion, a $185 million increase. Other major sources of revenue, including state-shared revenue and other tax-related revenues, are projected to increase, but at a slower pace.
The total number of full-time and part-time village staff positions remains unchanged at 144.5.
“We have high-quality staff, and that just isn’t in their skill base; it’s in their commitment,” Councilman Jeff Hmara said. “You get that by getting people excited about what they do for a living.”
There will be two internship positions added to the budget, but that does not pose a significant increase in operating costs, Liggins said.
Hmara is excited about the intern positions.
“I believe that it’s really important to give opportunities to young adults, whether they be students, like juniors or seniors in high school, or whether they be Palm Beach State College students or students who are home during summer from other universities,” he said. “They have the opportunity to see what the local municipalities do, both from the point of view of making them better-informed citizens and also from the point of view of getting them excited about the possibility of a career in the public sector.
The planned subsidized taxi program for senior citizens was placed in the general fund under parks and recreation at $45,000.
“That’s putting money behind the senior needs recommendation, which I think is a really important thing,” Hmara said. “I think it demonstrates an awareness and a response to the needs of the seniors based on the study that we authorized.”
Many of the projects and new items in the proposed budget implement what is found in the Royal Palm Beach Strategic Plan and help the council continue to work toward the goals it set, Hmara said.
“There are a lot of communities that don’t have that big-picture, purposeful kind of allocation of funds, and we do,” he said. “Every year we get better at it, and you can actually do the mapping much more accurately between the things we said we needed to do in the strategic plan to the funding that enables us to do those things.”
Hmara does not expect the budget proposal to be contentious.
“The allocation of funds is along the lines of what they were last time,” he said. “I do see funding that’s going to the engineering department, which makes perfectly good sense to me because of all the development activity and the road work we’re doing… I think it’s more of what we did last year with a slight increase as a function of the increase of activity.”
Liggins said he and his staff are ready to make their presentation of the proposed budget to the council, which was scheduled for Thursday, July 6.
“I do feel confident that what we prepared is consistent with all the meetings we’ve had with the council,” he said.
Hmara agreed with Liggins’ assessment.
“All of these things are really addressing needs that our growing community has and oriented toward the fact that we’re a hometown kind of a place with family interest and concerns,” Hmara said. “As our manager likes to talk about, we have the spirit of connectedness and becoming even more and more connected, both physically and through a sense of belonging.”