RPB Holds Tax Rate Steady While Pandemic Changes Budget

The Royal Palm Beach budget for fiscal year 2020-21 will be different from the current year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Village Manager Ray Liggins told the Royal Palm Beach Village Council at a workshop on Tuesday, July 7.

The proposed budget for next year is $50.8 million, compared to $45.1 million this year, largely due to capital projects that have been added for the coming year. However, the $50.8 million figure is expected to go down somewhat before being finalized at the formal budget public hearings scheduled for Sept. 8 and Sept. 17.

“This is a unique hearing in the sense that we’re doing it in a webinar, and it is a budget that is affected by COVID-19,” Liggins said. “Because of COVID-19, we do not have any events that attract large groups of people. Our senior program does not meet and is not active like it was in the past, so those employees have been let go and are not part of this budget. This budget is less than the current budget because of those changes.”

He qualified that the village will still strive to remain active, connected and esthetically pleasing, as stated in its mission statement.

“That does not mean that we will not work aggressively on the esthetically pleasing part,” Liggins said. “The budget does have that in there.”

He said the budget will have reduced revenue from sales tax, revenue sharing, gas tax and impact fees, offset by reductions in services, but will continue to work on capital improvements.

“I do think that this is a good time to continue to work on your facilities with those restricted funds that you have,” Liggins said. “Those funds cannot be used for operating expenses, so they have to be used for capital projects, and doing them during these times maximizes the number of jobs out there.”

Finance Director Stan Hochman pointed out that property values are up 8.2 percent and the proposed budget holds the property tax rate unchanged at 1.92 mills, using $3 million in reserves to keep it balanced.

“We’ve got some good news about that $3 million there. When we put together the final budget, that number’s going to be about $400,000,” Hochman said.

Part of that projection was that the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office did not increase its contract rate, contrary to earlier statements that it would increase the contract 1 percent, leaving its contracts at a total of just over $8 million.

The proposed millage rate of 1.92 would cost the owner of a home valued at $283,000 approximately $447 after a standard homestead exemption, Hochman said.

Parks & Recreation Director Lou Recchio said that his department has been hit very hard due to COVID-19.

“We’ve eliminated a lot of programs for the remainder of the year and looking at in the springtime,” Recchio said. “Contract services and everything, which is all of our instructors and personnel for those programs, the supplies for sports programs, has gone down about $30,000 because those programs won’t be running.”

Seniors programs have been all but eliminated, he added.

“The [Young at Heart Club] board of directors will be meeting on a regular basis because they do want to keep in touch and see what’s happening,” Recchio said. “They understand what we’re doing. They understand they can’t be meeting as a group with luncheons and everything, so that has had a drastic impact on the budget.”

All cultural events, including the four major annual events put on by the village, have been canceled.

“We’ll look at it later in the year when things change and see what adjustments we have to make,” Recchio said, adding that the cancellations have resulted in a 7.7 percent reduction in the recreation budget.