Draft $85.6 Million RPB Budget Would Keep Tax Rate Unchanged

The Royal Palm Beach Village Council.

The Royal Palm Beach Village Council heard a presentation on an $85.6 million village budget for fiscal year 2022-23 on Thursday, July 7. The budget would be funded by a property tax rate of 1.92 mills, which is unchanged from the current year.

Village staff provided an overview of the proposed budget for the next fiscal year, including introductory information on various capital projects and programs.

“The primary intent of the budget is to establish an action, operation and financial plan for the delivery of village services and facilities,” Village Manager Ray Liggins said. “The preparation of the budget is consistent with our vision and mission — being a hometown community providing services and facilities creating an aesthetically pleasing and active community. We are proposing the 1.92 tax rate remain the same. This will be the 26th year that the tax has been the same or less than the previous year.”

Liggins also explained that the budget for this past year was balanced using state and local fiscal recovery funds under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. Those funds cannot be used to build reserves, but it did help the village in not having to use its reserves to fund projects.

Royal Palm Beach received more than $20 million in American Rescue Plan funds, which must be designated by Dec. 31, 2024, and spent by Dec. 31, 2026.

The total budget for the fiscal year that starts Oct. 1 is $85,593,453. General operating expenses make up 34 percent of the budget. Stormwater is 2 percent and reserves make up 18 percent. The remaining 46 percent of the budget is set aside for capital projects.

Property values are projected to rise 13.1 percent, which increases the village’s total taxable value by $445 million from $3.386 billion to $3.831 billion. This means that while maintaining the 1.92-mill tax rate, the village will take in more revenue than last year due to increasing property values. However, tax increases for homesteaded properties are capped at 3 percent.

“Excluding county-subsidized services, Royal Palm Beach residents pay the lowest municipal tax per person of all Palm Beach County municipalities,” Liggins said. “This year’s budget increases the level of service in Parks & Recreation, the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office and Engineering with the addition of a full-time public relations specialist, a public art professional, and a community service aide and a part-time intern in Engineering.”

The 8.47 percent increase for Parks & Recreation will help bring back programs for senior citizens that were paused due to COVID-19. Three vacant general maintenance worker positions were deleted, with the work outsourced.

The village’s stormwater budget increased by 11.2 percent due to fuel, personnel services and maintenance contract increases. The department is going to bid out street sweeping in an attempt to avoid significant increases. The Public Works Department requested a 4.7 percent increase also due to maintenance contracts and fuel increases.

Councilwoman Selena Samios proposed the addition of a partnership with Discover the Palm Beaches. She negotiated an introductory rate of $500 for the first year instead of the regular $1,000 fee, and the council agreed to add it into the general operating costs.

In other business:

• Prior to the budget meeting, the council held a brief regular meeting made up mostly of consent agenda items.

They were all unanimously approved, with a clarification on an item regarding the village’s contract with solid waste vendor WastePro.

“This is a second five-year renewal with WastePro. Republic won [the contract] five years ago. When they lost the county job, they couldn’t service our job. WastePro took over the remaining three years,” Liggins said. “We typically will renew the second five years unless there are significant customer services issues. [WastePro] was not willing to do it at that same price, so we renegotiated. It is a significant increase, but when we look at what everyone else bid, we do not think we can do better.”

• Resident Danielle Underwood also addressed the council regarding a potentially dangerous intersection near H.L. Johnson Elementary School, at Ponce de Leon Street and Sevilla Avenue. Underwood was in a car accident with her daughter in the vehicle on May 31. She explained there is a significant blind spot for drivers coming from Valencia Street and requested that the village look into placing a four-way stop sign in the area for safety.

Mayor Fred Pinto instructed village staff to follow up on her concerns.