The Indian Trail Improvement District Board of Supervisors last month postponed a detailed discussion of its budget for fiscal year 2019-20 to July to give district staff time to change some questionable items that were presented to the board at its June 19 meeting.
At the board’s previous meeting, it transferred $1.3 million to the Acreage Community Park account to cover extra costs for completing the park’s long-delayed southern expansion.
“I understand that we had to take another stab at this and come up with some dollars based on the amendments that we made last month,” ITID President Betty Argue said. “What I was shocked to see when I looked at this budget was that there were many items that were board directives throughout the year that have been removed to make up these dollars. Shockingly, what was not removed was something that was not directed by the board to be included in the budget, and that was the 50 percent proposed dependent coverage, but items such as $750,000 for the road repaving plan was.”
Argue also pointed out that without authorization from the board, $75,000 for equestrian parking at the park expansion had been removed, and funding for a project at Sycamore Park had been reduced from $140,000 to $61,000.
“There’s many things in here that if we’re looking for dollars, it begs the question of why didn’t we take this out instead of these other directives,” Argue said. “We’ve created the position with respect to a focus on special projects, and we need to make sure the funds are there to do those special projects.”
Argue pointed out that road repaving and drainage are high priorities of the board, but the amount was reduced for culvert replacement and repair.
“I understand it seems like we have a lot of money there, but the board directive was that we have a set amount of dollars every year that was appropriated for these purposes and that it go into that pot, because one year you may not spend all of that money, but the next year you’re going to need all of that money. Then we’re going to need to raise taxes to accommodate it,” Argue said.
She suggested that staff take another look at the proposed budget and include new ITID Executive Director Burgess Hanson in the discussion, including one-on-one meetings with supervisors before a workshop on Wednesday, July 17 at 5:30 p.m., prior to the board’s next regular meeting.
“It is a concern to me when we spend a lot of time throughout the year talking about what our priorities are, and then when it comes time to start talking about the budget, suddenly all of those priorities are removed and something that was not a priority [is included],” Argue said. “I did not hear a consensus on this board that we wanted to pay 50 percent for dependent coverage.”
Argue was also concerned that a public meeting had been postponed from prior to the board’s June meeting to July. “This does not reflect what we’ve been talking about all year,” she said.
Argue noted that a workshop should be scheduled prior to sending the Truth in Millage (TRIM) rate to the Palm Beach County Property Appraiser’s Office.
Supervisor Joni Martin agreed that the budget must be looked at again before final approval.
Supervisor Tim Sayre, however, disagreed with removing the 50 percent healthcare coverage for staff dependents and cutting future funding for capital infrastructure improvements.
“This is a hard budget to go through,” Sayre said. “We’re short $1.3 million because we allocated money to a park that we need to finish, so we need to find the $1.3 million. Sure, we can eliminate $20 here and $20 there. I was the one who stood up in front of this board for three years previous to being here rallying about not taking money against stuff that they needed to hold back for. I was the one who brought up the inverted siphon and putting away money so that we would have it for that.”
Sayre added that he had brought up putting in money for the paving, pointing out that the easy cut is the $750,000 against one year for future pavement of roads.
“This is a tough year, with the $1.3 million that wasn’t in the utility funds that should have been there,” he said, adding that $300,000 earned in high interest savings accounts have been added to the budget as a buffer. “There are board members saying that we shouldn’t have the $400,000 in there to help our families provide healthcare for children. I don’t understand why this board is against helping provide healthcare for our employees’ children.”
“Please stop with your political comments,” Argue said.
“This is a political position,” Sayre said.
“You are making assertions that are false that we don’t care about our employees or their children,” Argue said.
“You want to cut $400,000 that they allocated to see if we could give extra coverage to help with the healthcare for children of employees… when we haven’t even looked at what we can provide yet,” Sayre said.
He explained that the insurance provider had included dependent care as an option for the board to consider.
“I, for one, am glad they put it in the budget,” Sayre said. “If the board decides that we shouldn’t have it in there, I will abide by the vote of the board, but in the meantime, I am not going to get on [ITID staff] for putting stuff in there that they felt we should look at.”
Sayre added that about 33 percent of the district’s budget goes to employees, “Which leaves 66 percent of the budget to do what we need to do,” he said.
“We had to make up the $1.3 million out of the utility fund, so this is going to be a tough year on the budget, and, yes, we can go back and look at it again,” Sayre said. “As far as the park, we’re talking about swings, we cut from $140,000 to $70,000. I’m sure they looked at what equipment we need… They can present that to us at the workshop. Those are some of the tough cuts we need to make to finish the park.”
Sayre added that he did not favor including projects at Acreage Community Park South, such as the proposed equestrian parking lot, until it has a certificate of occupancy.
“Let’s get it done to a point where it’s finished, and then we can move forward with other projects,” Sayre said.
The board agreed with the suggestion to hold another budget workshop on Wednesday, July 17 at 5:30 p.m.