RPB Rec Board To Oversee Village Surtax Spending

The Royal Palm Beach Village Council approved a resolution earlier this month designating its Recreation Advisory Board as the Village Infrastructure Surtax Citizen Oversight Committee for local projects.

The committee will oversee expenditures from the 1-cent surtax approved by voters Nov. 8.

The local governmental infrastructure surtax will be used by Palm Beach County, the School District of Palm Beach County and the 39 county municipalities to finance planning, reconstruction and improvement of needed infrastructure.

The language included the requirement that all participating governments have an independent oversight committee review surtax expenditures. Communities can create an oversight committee or utilize one created by the Palm Beach County League of Cities.

The Royal Palm Beach Recreation Advisory Board currently reviews and makes recommendations to the council on recreation infrastructure and capital projects.

At the Dec. 15 meeting, Village Attorney Jennifer Ashton said that a citizen oversight committee is a requirement of the referendum.

“The ordinance actually says that any city, county or school district must have an oversight committee to make sure that you’re spending your money in accordance with three things: one, in the state statute that defines infrastructure; two, ballot language that was approved by the voters; and three, that it agrees with an interlocal agreement with the county,” Ashton said.

She explained that the county left it largely to the discretion of the municipalities to decide whether they wanted to create their own committee or use one created by the League of Cities.

“When we were talking about whether we were going to have a separate advisory board for this purpose, or if we were going to use an existing advisory board, we thought that the Recreation Advisory Board looks at recreation infrastructure projects, so they do have some history doing this type of thing,” Ashton said. “That’s why the resolution in front of you appoints the Recreation Advisory Board as your oversight committee.”

“So, to use a military term, what we are doing is giving an existing board additional duties,” Mayor Fred Pinto said.

Councilwoman Selena Smith, who is liaison to the Recreation Advisory Board, said she has spoken with the board’s chairman and he told her they welcome the opportunity. Vice Mayor Jeff Hmara said he was glad that Smith had asked whether the members were interested in taking on additional responsibilities.

“I trust some thought was given to whether or not folks do bring that ability,” Hmara said. “I heard you talk about the rec infrastructure as a basis for that, and there are issues that do come up that have to be addressed by the Recreation Advisory Board. It’s an important function.”

Village Manager Ray Liggins said Parks & Recreation Director Lou Recchio presents the recreation capital budget every year.

“They meet eight times a year, and he does updates on the budget at every meeting, so this will be continuing that process,” Liggins said. “A lot of the parks and recreation projects will be funded with this, along with a few other projects for them to discuss. We see this as very little change to what they’re currently doing, with these few added responsibilities as far as reports, certifying money that was spent in the previous year in accordance with the rules, and that the money we’re proposing to spend in the next year is done in accordance with the rules of the sales tax.”

Recchio said the advisory board goes through proposed capital budgets that it wants to bring forward, and reviews the progress of those projects after the budgeting process.

“During the course of the year, I’m always giving them updates of where we are now in the stages of each project, so it’s not really going to change anything,” Recchio said.

Hmara asked whether the projects to be reviewed will only be local ones, and Liggins said the wording is for village projects only.

“The council has not approved the list to be used for the sales tax,” Liggins said. “We will prepare one in preparing our capital budget, and we will get the council’s approval of that.”

Ashton added that municipalities are free to amend their lists as needs change.

Smith made a motion to approve the resolution, which carried 5-0.