BY PAUL GABA
Wellington officials released a draft village budget for fiscal year 2017-18 last week, projecting to spend $110.4 million over the next year.
According to the preliminary numbers, that is a $20.8 million increase from the current year, primarily due to specific multi-year capital improvement projects. Those include $3.5 million in work being done with money from the 1-cent Palm Beach County sales surtax that voters approved last year, $9.6 million to renew water reclamation and water treatment facilities, and $4.5 million due to increases in personnel and operation costs.
Total revenues are projected to increase by about $6.3 million. The most significant increases include additional ad valorem tax money of $1.18 million at the proposed 2.43 millage rate, and $3.8 million in intergovernmental revenue, which includes the 1-cent sales surtax, half-cent sales tax, state revenue sharing, gas taxes and community development block grant funds. Utility revenues are projected to increase by $500,000 due to a 2.5 percent rate index on user water and wastewater rates.
Wellington’s proposed tax rate of 2.43 mills is slightly lower than last year’s rate. However, increases in property values will bring in additional revenue.
A 7.7 percent increase in the village 2017 taxable value to $8.03 billion provides the additional $1.18 million in ad valorem tax revenues. Using an averaged assessed value of $307,500 at the proposed 2.43 millage rate, homesteaded village property taxes would increase by $15 from the current year. Non-homesteaded village property taxes would increase by $53 from the current year.
Village Manager Paul Schofield said there were no unexpected items in the budget.
“We plan capital projects generally in a 10-year time frame, and specifically in a five-year time frame,” Schofield said. “Each of the major projects has been in our planning for several years.”
The village also has $3 million in a dedicated disaster operation and recovery fund.
“Some elements of disaster planning and operations are funded every budget year,” he said. “Our experience from the hurricanes of 2004 and 2005 is that we could not budget for disasters every year.”
The proposed budget will finance 313 full-time positions, 89,820 part-time hours, two supplemental positions and six interns. Overall, the village is reducing its full-time positions by one in the upcoming fiscal year.
The village plans to eliminate four vacant permanent positions — one each in the Planning & Zoning Department, Building Department, Village Clerk’s Office and the Wellington Tennis Center.
Additional positions include one code compliance officer for increased enforcement activity, one supplemental environmental services position for flying pest spraying, one Utilities Department assistant director position and one midnight shift operator for workload and plant coverage. The budget also adds 1,200 recreational assistant hours in the Parks & Recreation Department.
Capital projects included in the proposed budget include:
• South Shore Blvd. and Pierson Road intersection improvements ($477,000).
• Water and wastewater facility renewals and systemwide renewals and replacements ($19.7 million).
• Expansion of multi-use path and bike lanes ($300,000).
• Improvements to the neighborhood trails system ($300,000).
• Streetscape improvements and village signage ($600,000).
• Surface water management infrastructure improvements ($800,000).
• Acme drainage renewal ($740,000).
• Replacement of the Peaceful Waters boardwalk ($400,000).
• Rebuilding Wellington Community Park ($2.4 million using sales surtax capital improvement money).
The first Truth in Millage (TRIM) budget workshop is set for Monday, July 10, with preliminary approval at the Wellington Village Council meeting on Tuesday, July 11. Two formal public hearings on the budget are set for Sept. 12 and Sept. 26.
But residents with concerns or comments on the proposed budget can get a head start. Public outreach to gain input from residents and stakeholders is underway with community forums, lobby surveys and the Budget Challenge online survey, which can be found on Wellington’s web site at www.wellingtonfl.gov/survey.
Schofield said the village has been doing the Budget Challenge for several years. It provides useful public input as village officials look to decide which areas to focus on.
“It is done in part online, and we collect them at our events, such as the Fourth of July celebration,” Schofield said. “We will also present the Budget Challenge to any community group that requests it.”
The deadline to adopt the budget is Sept. 30 for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1. Wellington is required by state law to adopt a balanced budget by that day.
Residents can access the proposed budget on the village’s web site at www.wellingtonfl.gov.