RPB Council Examines 2017-18 Spending Plan At Budget Workshop

The Royal Palm Beach Village Council held a budget workshop Thursday, July 8 to examine the village’s proposed $49 million spending plan for fiscal year 2017-18.

Of the $49 million, the general fund represents 48 percent, while capital projects take up 31 percent. Reserves make up 19 percent, and the village’s stormwater utility makes up the remaining 2 percent.

Notable new additions include new capital improvement funds, including $2.6 million from the new 1-cent sales surtax passed last year by county voters.

“We also have the capital account created in the storm utility,” Village Manager Ray Liggins said. “We are proposing raising the rates in that storm utility 50 cents over what we’re operating on, and with the remainder of that 50 cents, putting it into capital.”

That works out to an increase from $4 to $4.50.

“I just want to verify, the reason we created these two new capital funds is for accounting purposes to have a place to put the money from the sales tax, and… since we’ve had the stormwater utility for a while, why are we now just creating them?” Councilman Jeff Hmara asked.

Finance Director Stan Hochman said the village didn’t have enough money previously.

“So, without the money, there was no need for a fund because there was nothing to account for,” Hmara said, and Hochman agreed.

The total proposed village property tax rate remains at 1.92 mills.

“Looking at the ad valorem tax overview, first of all, that 1.92 is something we’ve had for quite a few years,” Hmara said.

Hochman said that the rate has held steady for nearly 10 years.

“However, what you see is a difference from the year-to-year with the same tax rate being consistent, but the value of property increasing, which means you’ve got to dig a little deeper in your pocket when it comes time to pay that bill,” Hmara noted.

Liggins said the change due to property values is different for everybody.

“It depends on your homestead exemptions,” he said. “The way the state law is, if you have a homesteaded property, it can’t go up more than 2 percent or the cost of living [increase]. The cost of living, I believe, is under two percent.”

Mayor Fred Pinto said it’s 1.6 percent.

“So, 1.6 is the maximum,” Liggins said, adding that property taxes only fund part of the budget.

Liggns said there isn’t one answer for every property owner in the village regarding property taxes, and Hochman said the 7.4 percent in total property valuation is an average itself.

“Some people could have had a 10 percent increase,” Hochman said. “Others could have had a 2 percent increase, depending on the variations.”

The budget is split between the general fund and capital projects.

The general fund, which finances day-to-day government, makes up about 50 percent of the proposed budget, close to $24 million. Expenditures come in at 42 percent for personal services, 40 percent for contractual services, 15 percent for other charges and services, and three percent for commodities.

The budget proposes merit adjustments at an average of 3.5 percent for all employees, a cost-of-living adjustment of 1.7 percent and medical insurance increases based on market projections.

No new staff positions are added, but two new internship positions under administration and engineering are included.

The stormwater utility fund is proposed at more than $950,000. The majority of the revenue lies under the stormwater utility fee (87 percent), and then 6 percent for reserves and 7 percent for the newly added fund. For 2018, $65,000 is proposed to make drainage improvements at Camellia Park, which will total $365,000 for its five-year plan.

The capital improvement projects make up the other half of the proposed total budget, at more than $24 million.

Under recreation facilities, a carryover of more than $72,000 is proposed to provide access to kayak launches for members of the public through requirements for the Americans with Disabilities Act. Commons Park is getting a proposed $10,000 for its parking lot expansion.

The beautification fund will provide a proposed $100,000 for accent and lighting improvements at Veterans Park. Under the impact fees fund, $150,000 is proposed to facilitate village-wide traffic calming. Under the sales surtax fund, $950,000 is proposed for phase two of the RV/boat parking project.

There is $375,000 proposed for sports and lighting replacement at Marcelo Park on fields two and three. Other enhancements and replacements under parks and recreation include $150,000 for Commons and Robiner parks, $100,000 at the Royal Palm Beach Recreation Center, $200,000 at Penzance Park, $250,000 for the Commons Sporting Center, $110,000 for the Seminole Palms Park athletic field and $300,000 at Camellia Park.

Under the general capital fund, $550,000 in 2018 is proposed for the Royal Palm Beach Cultural Center expansion. The project totals more than $1.4 million under parks and recreation for the general capital fund.

The tax rate will be discussed in further detail at next council meeting, and a formal budget hearing is scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 7.