Wellington Council Hears Presentation On $134 Million Proposed Budget

The Wellington Village Council.

The Wellington Village Council got its first formal look at a proposed $134 million village budget for the upcoming fiscal year on Tuesday, July 11.

At the meeting, the council set the Truth-In-Millage (TRIM) rates to be sent to the Palm Beach County Tax Collector’s Office. This represents the village’s highest possible ad-valorem taxes and non-ad valorem assessments for next year.

The village’s property tax rate was left unchanged at 2.47 mills, while a $25 per unit increase was proposed for the Acme Improvement District assessment, raising it from $230 to $255.

“The rates cannot go any higher than the rates shown tonight, but they can go lower,” Mayor Anne Gerwig noted.

Specifically, Gerwig asked for additional information about the proposed Acme assessment increase, looking to get that lower. She said her recollection was that when the rate was raised from $200 to $230, it was only supposed to be for a set period of time before it went back down.

Deputy Village Manager Tanya Quickel presented the preliminary proposed budget for the fiscal year starting Oct. 1

“For fiscal year 2024, we propose no change in the millage rate, currently set at 2.47 mills,” she said. “The Acme proposed rate of $255 includes a $25 increase from the current $230. This was discussed during our directions workshop.”

There are also increases proposed to the rates for solid waste collection. The proposed rates of $290 (up $70) for curbside service and $225 (up $55) for containerized service fully fund the village’s solid waste collection contract without using fund balance money to lower the rate, as has been done in the past.

Meanwhile, Wellington’s water and wastewater customers are projected to see an increase of 10 percent. Properties participating in the Saddle Trail improvement project assessment, now in its eighth year, will see no change.

“The fiscal year 2024 budget continues Wellington’s commitment to stable budgeting for sustainability,” Quickel said. “The total proposed budget is $134 million, which is $5.5 million more than the current year budget of $128.5 million. This increase is primarily due to rising costs of facility and road maintenance, personnel, grant funding, and special events and recreation programming.”

Tax revenue provides approximately $27 million in revenue using the 2.47 millage rate. This is helped by a 12.1 percent increase in the village’s taxable property values, to $11.6 billion. This helped bring in $2.7 million more than last year. It’s the village’s 11th consecutive year of increased property values, Quickel noted. This money accounts for 43 percent of the general fund revenues.

Expenditure increases include an additional $3.5 million in personnel expenses, $2 million in maintenance and recreation, and a $317,000 increase in the law enforcement contract with the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office. There are also increases of $1.2 million in utilities operating expenses and a five percent increase in the village’s solid waste collection contract.

“While the millage rate is unchanged, homeowners may still see an increase in their taxes if their property value has increased,” Quickel noted, adding that only 18 percent of a property owner’s tax bill goes to the village, with the rest going to other county taxing authorities.

The ad valorem impact for a homesteaded property valued at $400,000 is an increase of about $33 with a three percent assessed value increase. The increase is $99 for a non-homesteaded property with a 10 percent assessed value increase.

While the council approved the TRIM rates unanimously, several made it clear that changes are likely before the numbers are finalized.

“This is the highest that the rate can be,” Councilman John McGovern said. “As the process moves forward, we may make a number of changes.”

Councilman Michael Drahos said he would save specific concerns to another time, but he was happy to see the millage rate unchanged for the fifth year in a row.

“I am pleased with the fact that we held true to our word in that we were not going to raise the millage rate,” he said. “Tonight is an indicator that we have followed through on what we have said we were going to do.”

The preliminary budget funds 246 full-time governmental positions, 73,350 part-time hours, seven supplemental positions and two interns. In the enterprise funds, the budget funds 68 full-time positions and nine supplemental positions.

The largest capital and major maintenance projects for fiscal year 2024 include $5.1 million to begin work on the new Wellington Aquatics Complex at Village Park and funding in the utilities budget for meter replacement throughout the village. There is also $3.5 million earmarked for Public Works facility improvements.

Capital projects in the budget will be discussed at a workshop on Monday, Aug. 7.

Residents are also invited to attend the three upcoming budget hearings on Aug. 8, Sept. 5 and Sept. 20 at 7 p.m. at Village Hall (12300 W. Forest Hill Blvd.).

Learn more about the proposed budget at www.wellingtonfl.gov/budget. That is also where you can find a link to the Balancing Act Simulation and Taxpayer Receipt programs that allow residents to provide input into the budget process.