By Paul L. Gaba
The Royal Palm Beach Village Council will review the community’s annual budget for fiscal year 2015-16 on Monday, July 6. But for the most part, don’t expect many deviations from prior years in terms of spending allocations.
According to Finance Director Stan Hochman, the 197-page, $41.16 million proposed budget was prepared with the intent of not increasing the current tax rate of 1.92 mills per $1,000 of taxable property, while maintaining the level of service Royal Palm Beach residents have come to enjoy.
The budget does reflect a tentative $6.27 million increase over the 2014-15 budget approved last September. At face value, this looks like a huge difference — it is nearly an 18 percent jump. But Hochman explained the reason for this increase is a number of capital improvement projects slated for the upcoming fiscal year.
“A variety of them are new projects, and the major one is road resurfacing,” Hochman said. “Other than that, the operating budget is basically the same.”
A total of $2.35 million is slated for road resurfacing within Royal Palm Beach, including Saratoga Blvd., Kings Way, La Mancha Avenue, Ponce De Leon Street and Queens Lane. Some of these are carryovers from the current year, and it is also possible that other projects could get bumped up, based on available money or emergencies that occur.
“It’s an expensive cost, when you put the asphalt down,” Village Engineer Chris Marsh said. “We try for a three-year cycle, but this year, it’s a significant amount of resurfacing that’s taking place. It’s a function of the roadway, how many vehicle trips and the types of trips. Sometimes in the three-year cycle, you have heavier resurfacing needs than others. This happens to be one of those years.”
Marsh also noted improvements and additions taking place at Royal Palm Beach Commons Park. These include adding two restrooms, expanding the pathways by about a mile and starting the construction process on a new amphitheater.
“We’ve received grant funding for it and will be sending it out to bid by the end of this year,” Marsh said.
According to the proposed annual budget, $5.5 million of the capital improvement financing would come from the pending sale of the village’s 154-acre former wastewater treatment plant property on Crestwood Blvd. The sale was approved by the council in February, but finalization has been held up by a delay in Lennar Homes receiving a traffic study approval. Last month, the council approved an extension through July 13.
The budget estimates a 10.6 percent increase in Royal Palm Beach property values, from $2.051 billion to $2.269 billion in gross taxable value.
Roughly one-third of the $218 million increase — $78 million — is represented by new construction. As a result, the budget focuses on funding recurring annual and required new capital projects for 2015-16, including the major expenditure for road resurfacing.
Royal Palm Beach anticipates an increase of $905,756 in revenues between Oct. 1, 2015 and Sept. 30, 2016, a boost of 3.89 percent. Locally levied ad valorem taxes account for $314,886 of this total, and state revenue-sharing and a half-cent sales tax accounts for another $351,391.
As for expenses, the village is looking at a 4.04 percent increase in departmental operation costs ($875,792). The largest increase is in Parks & Recreation, which will see a 10.63 percent boost ($457,868).
Most of the increase in personnel expenses is connected to cost-of-living and merit pay increases, which totaled $476,808, or a 5.68 percent increase over the previous year. COLA accounted for 1.2 percent of the total.
Increased costs of health insurance have also been factored into the budget estimate for Royal Palm Beach’s 151-employee staff. The budget also estimates a $199,077 increase in contractual services — mostly costs associated with a financial services budget study and an impact fee study — and a $110,802 increase in the various village maintenance contracts.
The discussion July 6 will be the first public comment on the proposed budget. There will be two public hearings for input from residents in September, and while the dates are not currently set, Hochman said they traditionally take place concurrently with council meetings that month. Those meetings are scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 3 and Thursday, Sept. 17.
ABOVE: The Royal Palm Beach Village Council.