The Royal Palm Beach Recreation Advisory Board was briefed Monday, Sept. 25 on its new role as the village’s Infrastructure Surtax Citizen Oversight Committee.
As this new committee, the rec board members will ensure that all money received by the village through the recently enacted sales surtax is used according to the Florida Statutes, Palm Beach County ordinances, the interlocal agreement governing the sales surtax and the ballot item approved by voters last year. This will be done through an annual report given to the Royal Palm Beach Village Council by the oversight committee.
In the county ordinance, the money received through the one-cent surtax allows the local municipalities to “finance, plan, construct, reconstruct, renovate and improve needed infrastructure.”
Projects falling under the village’s current surtax fund include a customer service building, phase 2 of the village’s RV/boat parking area, adding lighting to a pathway along the FPL easement, a lobby update at Royal Palm Beach Village Hall, the LaMancha Avenue extension, sports lighting replacement at Marcello Park, a pathway at Robiner Park, playscape enhancements, gym lighting replacements, Royal Palm Beach Commons Park Sporting Center improvements, Seminole Palms Park athletic field renovations, Camellia Park sports lighting, art in public places, bridge slope stabilization, water treatment plant site modifications, road resurfacing and improvements to the canal system.
“Next year, you will compare the list that we provide you with the previous list,” Village Manager Ray Liggins told board members regarding their future annual reports. “It has to be the same, unless changed by council, so we can’t put whatever we want on the list and change it throughout the year.”
The oversight committee must review whether the list of projects changes from year to year, and whether the council carried them out.
“That’s next year’s report,” Liggins said. “This year’s report is the list. We accept the list, and the list projects and scope of projects are consistent with state law.”
The items under the surtax fund this year are all on a five-year plan in the village budget. However, Liggins said the list will change each year, as village staff presents new annual budgets.
“We started collecting this fee in March of this year, maybe April. So, we’re looking at between then and Sept. 30 collecting $1.45 million, and we haven’t spent any of it yet, because we are going to wait until those budget years to do that,” Liggins said. “So, you’ll see for fiscal year 2018, we’re showing a collection of $1.15 million, and a carryover of $1.4 million, giving us $2.6 million.”
The village expects to use $2.5 million in funds and carry $65,000 into the next year. There is $2 million in revenue slated each year under the surtax fund.
“My guess is that will be higher in the future. It’s probably conservative,” Liggins said. “I’ve seen estimates as low as $2.2 million and as high as $2.7 million. For right now, we’ll wait until we get into a historical trend to up those numbers.”
As already required of the rec board, the oversight committee must specifically adhere to the Sunshine Law, Florida Statues, state public records laws and the Florida Code of Ethics.
“Anything that relates to the oversight committee, anything that may be a future vote of this committee, you can’t talk with each other outside of a public meeting. That’s the Sunshine Law,” Liggins said. “Public records mean that any documents that we share with you and are part of your official action, becomes a public record, and anybody can ask for that document and get copies of it.”
Board Member John Ruffa asked for clarity regarding requirements of the committee this year. Liggins said, upon the creation of the oversight committee by the village, it is now able to begin spending money on capital projects in the surtax fund.
“We’re really three months ahead of schedule for the first report,” Liggins said. “Before there is an expenditure of any money, that would be the 2018 report.”
Also at the meeting, Board Member Phyllis Katz was tapped to chair the board for 2017-18, and Board Member John Riordan was chosen as vice chair.
At the end of the meeting, Parks & Recreation Director Lou Recchio gave an update on the status of the Royal Palm Beach Cultural Center renovation project.
“All the activities that were at the Cultural Center are now at the [Recreation] Center,” Recchio said. “The Cultural Center is shut down. They are turning that building over to the contractor next week, so as far as we’re concerned, they own it for the next year.”