Lox Council Reviews Smaller Budget For Upcoming Year

The Loxahatchee Groves Town Council held a budget workshop Tuesday, Aug. 18 to review a “back to basics” maintenance plan for fiscal year 2020-21.

The proposed budget stood mostly unchanged at $5.5 million, excluding borrowing and capital spending, compared to $5.8 million in the current year.

“This is where we need to start trying to make some decisions on some of the things that the council would like to see in the budget and things the council would like to see out of the budget,” Assistant Town Manager Francine Ramaglia said. “It currently is a balanced budget using 3 mills, the same rate as last year, $200 per [acre] for operating maintenance assessment, $450 per unit for the solid waste assessment and varying rates for the different OGEM units for the last year of their debt service.”

She noted that the public works director had provided a detailed list of recommended projects. A list was also submitted by the Roadways, Equestrian, Trails & Greenway Committee, as well as staff with their rankings and dollar amounts that have not been budgeted.

“At the last council meeting, the council wanted this year to be something that gets us back to basics,” Ramaglia said.

This includes a strong maintenance plan, leveraging resources with minimal additions of people and equipment, looking at other districts’ existing maintenance contracts.

“The council talked about completing the last four to five miles of the roads and putting the road base down… and there were three capital projects that were discussed, such as weirs and culvert replacements, and also to cut and patch the OGEM roads,” Ramaglia said.

The costs estimates provided by staff were about $210,000 for the weirs, not including pumps, about $320,000 to cut and repair the OGEM roads, as well as about $30,000 for borings and about $500,000 to replace two badly deteriorated culverts.

“In total, we’re talking about something on the order of about a million dollars,” she said. “We talked about allocating the surtax money, but that has not been officially allocated. There’s currently $825,000 that has accumulated. We’ve accumulated about $200,000 a year. We will receive that for the rest of the 10-year period, and I think that gives us about five more years.”

Ramaglia also pointed out that any projects funded by the surtax fund would need to be approved by the oversight board. The council also suggested using the surtax funds as a backup to a possible bond issue.

There was also council discussion at the last meeting about two matching grants available from the Palm Beach County Transportation Planning Agency. One for building a multimodal trail along Okeechobee Blvd. at about $400,000 and the other for a roundabout at Okeechobee Blvd. and Folsom Road with the town’s portion at about $646,000.

Ramaglia pointed out that using the gas tax as collateral would eliminate the ability of the town to use it for road maintenance as it has in the past.

The first budget public hearing and adoption of final non-ad valorem assessment rates is set for Thursday, Sept. 8, with the second public hearing on Thursday, Sept. 22.