They say the only thing certain in life are death and taxes — but a certainty in the Village of Wellington was that the Wellington Village Council would not increase its tax rate for five years, starting last year.
At their Tuesday, July 14 meeting held virtually via Zoom, the council kept to that promise, keeping Wellington’s ad valorem property tax rate of 2.47 mills unchanged for the 2020-21 fiscal year when its set its Truth in Millage or TRIM rate.
The TRIM rate is the maximum tax rate. Once set, it can be lowered before the budget is finalized in September but cannot be raised.
The non-ad valorem drainage assessment for the Acme Improvement District is proposed at $230 per unit (an acre or any part thereof), while solid waste fees will be $135 for curbside service and $100 for containerized service. The Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office contract was continued with no change in the fee.
To provide transparency as to how the staff arrived at the TRIM rate, the preliminary budget was presented, giving residents a first look at the proposed budget for the next fiscal year, highlighting plans for the provision of services and capital assets.
This first phase of the budget process provides the public with about two months to make comments about the elements of the budget. The second phase, departmental budgets, will follow in a few weeks.
“This budget is about $6 million lower than last year,” Village Manager Paul Schofield said.
He said that this was necessitated by the downturn in revenues precipitated by the COVID-19 pandemic and was achieved by eliminating some staff positions and cutting or delaying some capital projects.
Schofield reminded residents that the TRIM rates are the maximum possible tax rates. “TRIM can go down, but can’t go up,” he said. “Tonight, we are only voting on the TRIM rate. This vote doesn’t comment on a single line item in the budget.”
Councilman John McGovern thanked the village staff for their hard work under difficult circumstances. “This is year two of a five-year plan to hold the millage rate steady,” he noted.
The total revenue in the budget is $87.2 million with total expenses of $91.9 million. Reserves make up the balance of the difference. Including inter-fund transfers, the total budget is $101.6 million, down from $106.3 million in the current year.
The proposed budget funds 232 full-time positions — seven less than the current year. Also eliminated were nine supplemental positions and 5,081 part-time hours.
With an estimated 2.9 percent increase in the village’s taxable value to $8.9 million, the rise in Wellington home values provides added ad valorem tax revenues of $483,012 more than last year at the preliminary 2.47 millage rate. The impact for a homesteaded property valued at $300,000 is an increase of $17. The increase is $25 for a non-homesteaded property.
In the continuing budget process, Wellington is reaching out to the public to gain input from residents and stakeholders through social media, a virtual town hall meeting on Facebook and on the village’s web site.