The Wellington Village Council finalized its $101.6 million budget for fiscal year 2020-21 on Tuesday, Sept. 22. The budget keeps the property tax rate of 2.47 mills unchanged.
It was the second public hearing on the budget for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1, and the second with no one from the public commenting on the spending plan, which is down approximately $5 million from the fiscal year 2019-20 budget of $106.3 million.
The council approved all the budget-related items unanimously.
“That’s a big statement, the fact that we don’t have people showing up to talk about the budget,” Mayor Anne Gerwig said.
Councilman Michael Napoleone agreed.
“We’re still delivering the same level of services,” he said. “My only concern was a 14 percent transfer from reserves because eventually reserves go away.”
Vice Mayor Tanya Siskind commended Director of Administrative & Financial Services Tanya Quickel and her entire team. “In some cases, you increased the level of services,” she noted.
Quickel explained that the budget does reflect changes brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Changes have been made in the budget because of the pandemic, and we feel comfortable that we will be able to move forward,” she said.
Village Manager Paul Schofield said the impact of the economic changes brought by the pandemic will take some time before they are fully clear.
“We don’t even know the amount of shortfall in the coming years,” he said. “We anticipate it might be up to $30 million [due to the effects of COVID-19], and we will be able to address that. That’s why we didn’t take the reserves under 34 percent.”
The council recently made a last-minute cut of some $6 million to the 2019-20 budget to keep it in balance. This cut was due to reduced sales tax collections and recreation fees as a result of the pandemic.
“We are not having a contentious discussion because we’ve had that in the past, and we have made adjustments,” Councilman John McGovern said.
He thanked his colleagues, as well as the staff. McGovern also noted that the council put a plan for a 10-year millage rate average in place previously that it has kept to, even with the pandemic.
McGovern stressed that there was no tax rate increase. However, an increase of 2.9 percent in property values means that the average homesteaded homeowner of a $300,000 property will pay $17 more.
“There are no assessment increases,” McGovern said, adding that no one was laid off or fired, and personnel reductions were made through efficiencies in new software, attrition and reassignment. “We made absolutely sure that cuts can be made easily without changing the expectations of our residents.”
Councilman Michael Drahos called this year’s process the least contentious and least dramatic in memory.
“We’re earning dividends this year on the difficult decisions we made in previous years,” he said. “We are in a position where we have a little bit of flexibility.”
To learn more about the budget, visit www.wellingtonfl.gov/budget.
Meanwhile, in U.S. Census news, McGovern said that there are only a few days left to fill out the census form, and that the census is vital to the community at large.
“We are currently at 71.4 percent, which is behind Royal Palm Beach, and we hope to beat them,” he said. “But in all seriousness, the funding is so important to bring back to the community. Filling out the census can be very important to get back our fair share of taxes.”