Lox Council Reduces 2020-21 Budget, Holds Taxes Steady

In a workshop meeting Tuesday, July 21, the Loxahatchee Groves Town Council looked at a mostly unchanged fiscal year 2020-21 budget proposal of $5.5 million, excluding borrowing and capital spending, compared to $5.8 million in the current year.

The ad valorem tax rate and assessments for roads and drainage will remain the same at 3 mills and $200 per acre, respectively, although staff is looking for residences that may be unaccounted for or unreported. The solid waste fee will be $450 per unit.

Tax rolls and preliminary rates are due to the county by July 24. The first budget public hearing and adoption of the final non ad valorem assessment rates will be held Sept. 8 and reported to the county on Sept. 15. The second public hearing and final adoption is set for Sept. 22.

The 2020-21 budget anticipates $3,422,553 from taxes and assessments, $282,000 from franchise fees, $287,000 from utility taxes, $100,000 from communications taxes, $287,000 from the intergovernmental fund, $307,500 from gas taxes, $195,000 from the county’s one-cent surtax, $85,000 from licenses and permits, $80,000 from cost recovery fees and $66,000 from other revenue sources.

“Our conversation [will be] about the resources that we have within the constraints of the existing rates that we set as TRIM [Truth in Millage],” Assistant Town Manager Francine Ramaglia said. “Those were just set as the maximum rates as TRIM. That’s a conversation as to whether to adjust them.”

Ramaglia said costs related to the COVID-19 pandemic are anticipated to be between $250,000 and $550,000. Another concern she expressed was that the reserve balances are not as high as they should be.

“Those reserve balances are probably about as good as they have been, but they’re still less than what they could be and certainly less than what the FAAC [Finance Advisory & Audit Committee] recommended last year,” she said. “One thing I’ll mention, this tax roll has been getting a lot of adjustments over the course of the last year. It has been getting trued up. For all the things that one can say about switching garbage haulers, the best thing about it is figuring out the number of units that we have out in the field.”

She explained that the new haulers would be getting an accurate count of the number of residences and business, which would help in reporting a more accurate accounting of the tax roll for future years.

She added that staff did an early retirement of one of the town’s debts using $340,000 that was in the resurfacing fund. “We were able to reduce all the unit assessments this year and bring the retirement date back by one year,” she said. “The total debt service for the year is still roughly the same as it was, but we have one less year of debt service.”

The Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office contract is $624,000, the same amount as the current year, which comes out of the general fund budget. “Out of a total general fund budget of $2.1 million, the sheriff’s budget is about a third of it,” Ramaglia said.