County Gives Preliminary OK To $5.4 Billion Budget

The Palm Beach County Commission gave preliminary approval Thursday, Sept. 3 to its fiscal year 2020-21 budget of $5.4 billion with an ad valorem tax rate of 4.7815 mills.

While the tax rate itself is unchanged from the current year, it is 4.26 percent over the rollback rate, which required a super majority of the commissioners to approve.

All the proposed tax rates were approved 6-0, with Commissioner Mary Lou Berger absent.

The library district proposed rate was 0.5491, which was 4.25 percent over the rollback rate. The Palm Beach County Fire-Rescue MSTU proposed millage of 3.4581 was 4.73 percent over the rollback rate. The county’s aggregate proposed millage rate of 6.5836 was 3.03 percent over the rollback rate. The county’s voted debt was 0.0309 mills, while the library debt millage was 0.0342.

“Increases over rollback revenue for fiscal year 2020-21 include the sheriff’s net increase of $31.8 million,” County Administrator Verdenia Baker said. “The increase in other constitutional offices, including judicial, is $396,000. Increases in the BCC operations, net of revenues, is $28 million. The increase in non-departmental operations is $10.1 million, and the increase in reserves is $25.3 million.”

The decrease in revenues from other sources than ad valorem was $7.8 million, the increase in capital projects was $925,000 and the decrease in debt service was $1.6 million. The increase in other funding sources was $2.9 million, and $45.6 million was brought forward from the current year.

“The countywide budget is balanced at the current rate of 4.7815 mills,” Baker said. “The total gross budget is $5.4 billion, of which $1.6 billion is in the general fund. General fund appropriated reserves are $175.6 million, up $19.9 million over fiscal year 2019-20.”

The budget includes a 3 percent pay adjustment, with an increase of 114 positions, of which 26 are ad valorem funded and 88 are non-ad valorem funded, Baker said. Ad valorem new capital funding of $39 million is primarily renewal and replacement projects.

Commissioner Melissa McKinlay noted that she had asked questions in budget workshops about the sheriff’s budget.

“I understand our hands are tied to a certain extent, but I had asked for some information regarding the budget over the last few years in the community policing department, and also some explanation and exactly how much of the budget increase is tied to contractual obligations that we can’t escape because of the way he negotiates his contracts with the union,” McKinlay said. “I will support this motion this evening, but I would really like some sort of presentation from either the sheriff himself or from his budget director prior to or at the next budget hearing.”

Palm Beach County Mayor Dave Kerner said he had been in contact with Sheriff Ric Bradshaw, who said he would be present at the final hearing on the budget, set for Tuesday, Sept. 15 at 6 p.m.

Commissioner Mack Bernard thanked county staff for their work on the budget.

“We look forward to the second hearing so that way we can address some of the concerns of Commissioner McKinlay,” Bernard said.

Kerner also thanked staff for their budget preparation under difficult circumstances, including the pandemic, and Baker agreed that it was not easy.

“It was a brutal budget, but we all made it through,” she said.