Indian Trail Improvement District staff presented a revised fiscal year 2018-19 budget of $11,892,896, which is $88,006 lower than the current year, to the ITID Board of Supervisors last week.
The June 20 discussion came after a request by board members to rein in spending at a May workshop, although several questions remain regarding the allocation of funds.
Next year’s budget will go to its formal public hearing on Wednesday, July 18 at 6 p.m., just prior to the board’s next meeting.
ITID Manager Rob Robinson said the budget still has questions to be resolved.
“During the past several months, we’ve been agonizing over this,” he said. “There has been a lot of back and forth, going into the season with a lot of loose ends with staff and getting everything tightened up. It was quite a process.”
Robinson said that the budget includes a 20-year culvert replacement plan, pointing out that many are past due for repair.
“We looked at a couple of items that were issues for the community, and by board direction, one of them was a 20-year culvert replacement plan,” he said. “The majority of the culverts are exceeding their expected life span. Most date back to the 1980s and prior. 1980 was a place-holder that engineering had come up with to identify culverts that they had no real historical data on. It could be that some of the culverts underneath our roads are older than 1980.”
Robinson explained that pipe extensions added in the 1990s for roadway safety have led to emergency repairs that resulted in increased procurement costs and logistical issues for maintenance.
Other issues looked into included canal improvements.
“Hurricane Irma proved a lack of accessible easements to remove storm debris and provide effective maintenance and inspection of waterways,” Robinson said. “Canal banks will need to be restored for routine maintenance and inspection.”
Swale drainage has also been an issue.
“It all starts here,” Robinson said. “Without effective means to move the water from properties and roadways, the system will not work as designed. Proper swales enhance increased storage capacity and provide a faster way of removing storm water during rain events.”
Robinson said some of the budget recommendations had been modified after seeing the effects of the recent rains.
“We had such a dry winter and spring, and then we got all that rain in May. It was the wettest May on record,” he said, explaining that he had increased funding for several culvert and swale repairs in areas that have had a lot of ponding.
Robinson added that many of the dirt roads need more rock, which had been depleted over the years.
“We’re grading out there, and we’re just pushing around dust,” he said. “We’re adding as much material as we can, but there probably will be a point in time where we have to look into our reserve funds to… top these roads off and bring them up to spec.”
Robinson pointed out that ITID has not done a project like that in many years.
While the proposed budget is $88,000 lower than the current year, it includes a carry forward of $747,000.
ITID President Betty Argue noted that the budget is carrying forward money that includes the purchase of machinery that was not done this year, and that additional funds are being requested for next year.
Robinson said some line items for equipment approved by the board but not purchased had been moved to the carry forward budget for future review. Those items include a lowboy trailer to transport equipment and an excavator attachment that goes onto a Bobcat to mulch trees in place rather than cut them for future mulching, as well as a pumping system that was previously approved.
Argue recommended including them as budget line items to show the amount being carried forward.
ITID Finance Director Bruce Cuningham said he would move money for equipment purchases to line items but cautioned that it should not be part of the proposed budget because it is money already approved and available.
Argue also pointed out a need for public relations and information technology improvements that are overdue.
“I think we spend quite a bit of money on IT,” she said, asking if it is possible to hire a full-time combination information technology and public relations person in-house.
“We have a lot of work to do IT-wise, but also encompassing the web site redevelopment, and that same person would be responsible for our social media presence and our PR,” Argue said. “I think we have enough work to justify that.”
Robinson said his staff could do a cost comparison with its current contractor and what industry standards are versus what a full-time staff member salary would be.
“To combine both of them might put a bigger price tag on it than just breaking those departments down,” Robinson said.
Argue said the web site needs a complete rebuild, but Supervisor Ralph Bair said that is a project that should only take a couple of months.
“I don’t see where it would need a full-time person to be hired by the district to do that,” he said, adding that a public relations person could be hired, possibly at a lower salary.
Argue said she did not disagree, but was looking to identify issues, and current staff is swamped with day-to-day operations. She wanted to make sure that there is enough money in the budget to accomplish the board’s goals.
Cuningham also asked about money budgeted for legal staff.
“On the lawyers, $356,000 was the number in the other budget,” he said. “This year you’ve allocated $200,000, $100,000, $10,000 and $3,000, so we’re at $313,000, which is below last year’s. We’re supposed to see an anticipated cost savings of $22,000, based on the minutes, where the board directed that the minutes be done internally rather than externally.”
Cuningham pointed out that a $22,000 savings still does not bring the legal allocation in line with last year.
“Usually legal costs go up and not down every year,” he said. “I’m concerned we may not have allocated enough in the budget for the lawyers.”
Cuningham added that there could be legal issues coming up with developers such as GL Homes.
“If we don’t use that money and it’s there, that’s great because we’ve saved that money, but if we don’t budget for anticipated needs, I’m concerned we’ll be drawing out of reserves, and if it’s too much money, we’ll have to hold a budget amendment hearing,” he said.
Argue said one of the things being worked on is getting reimbursement from GL Homes for legal and engineering expenses.
“If we recoup some of that in this budget calendar year, can it be added to that line item?” she asked.
Supervisor Tim Sayre said he was not confident that the district will see that money reimbursed from GL Homes.
“I know they’ve said it, but we haven’t received anything yet, and we’re years into this situation,” Sayre said.
Argue said the question should be raised when GL Homes comes before the Palm Beach County Commission later this year with its zoning application.
“I don’t want to be underbudgeting on an item just because we don’t want to increase taxes,” she said. “I think it’s important that we be conservative, and it’s better if we have excess money than not enough money.”
Robinson said he would have an amended budget ready for board members’ review a week before the July 18 meeting.