Royal Palm Council Members Praise Manager In Evaluation

The Royal Palm Beach Village Council.

Royal Palm Beach Village Manager Ray Liggins received a glowing evaluation from members of the Royal Palm Beach Village Council on Thursday, May 21 as they discussed how much of a merit pay increase he should receive.

Currently, employees receive 5 percent merit pay, but Liggins has warned the council that they could be looking at some hard decisions in the next budget process, considering the current COVID-19 crisis, leading to a discussion whether to reduce that amount.

Councilwoman Selena Samios said Liggins had led the community well throughout the year, but especially over the past few months, creating policies to control COVID-19 and adjusting the budget for this year.

“Thank you very much for all that you do,” Samios said. “Making sure that you were prepared for everything you have to do, answering questions that the residents have, keeping us on track — we’ve had these conversations regarding our budget.”

Councilman Richard Valuntas said he appreciated the hard work that Liggins had done in trying times. “It’s not an easy thing, and I think that it attests to his leadership how well the village works, especially through this crisis,” he said.

The evaluation form gave suggested categories to grade Liggins, such as employee relations, image, long-range planning, financial management, communications with the council, and completion and direction of capital projects, and Liggins received high marks from all council members.

“How many years have we been doing strategic planning sessions, which was something that didn’t exist before he was the village manager?” Valuntas asked.

Samios noted that the council had been doing strategic planning for nine years.

Vice Mayor Jeff Hmara gave Liggins high marks in employee relations.

“You don’t get great things done without a great staff and a great team, and that is also a function of leadership,” said Hmara, also praising Liggins for execution of capital planning. “Staying with a schedule is not an easy thing. If you’ve ever been in project management, you know that it’s a huge step.”

In financial management, Hmara said Royal Palm Beach is among the soundest communities in Palm Beach County.

“I will say that COVID-19 will provide some challenges for us,” he said. “I’m confident that we’ll handle it with the folks that we have on staff and Ray’s leadership.”

Councilwoman Jan Rodusky was pleased with Liggins’ anticipation of issues during the crisis.

“You think about, you analyze and you come out with three or four different options that are safe and ones that are smart and will get us to a place in a year and a half or two years down the road, coming out stronger and safer and more financially sound,” she said.

Mayor Fred Pinto said he could not agree more with all the comments of council members.

“When things are going well, it’s kind of easy to move through the water, but when you have a storm, and we are living in a storm right now with this COVID-19 situation, [you have given] us the ability to sustain, to keep this community moving in the right direction,” Pinto said.

A great evaluation notwithstanding, Pinto asked that in consideration of prevailing financial conditions, if council would consider a 3 percent merit increase rather than 5 percent.

Liggins said that had been the procedure in previous years when revenues were soft.

All council members except Valuntas agreed that 3 percent would set a more realistic example for budget planning next year. Valuntas said the difference in 3 and 5 percent, about $3,500, was not that great.

Samios made a motion to give Liggins a 3 percent merit increase, which carried 4-1 with Valuntas dissenting.