Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Notes, news, observations: Budget work session at the City Commission last night.

UPDATE: The highlighted text below is more information from the Commission work session.

This was the last meeting prior to the process of actually adopting a City budget which will happen at two meetings next month, according to Finance Dir. Marie Elianor. Mayor Pam Triolo was absent; Vice Mayor Scott Maxwell officiated the meeting which ended before 7:00, less than an hour.

Here’s a list of what happened last night:

  • We learned from Commissioner Andy Amoroso the Lake Worth Electric Utility made a commitment last year to match grants received by the CRA for community WIFI to help children, students, and at-risk neighborhoods.
  • Maxwell’s push for a 0.25 reduction in the millage rate appears dead in its tracks (it would turn out to be $211,000 in the budget). There was talk of giving Triolo a chance to chime in but with commissioners Amoroso, Herman Robinson, and Omari Hardy opposed there’s little to be gained it would seem. Hardy said this fiscal year is “not the right time”, and Robinson added a millage rate reduction “would indicate a [City] management success” but next year would consider a reduction in the millage instead of this year. Amoroso, “Agree with lowering the rate but not right now”.
  • Scott Maxwell: “I see some momentum building up.” He made the case for a millage reduction considering rising property values, existing homeowners paying more taxes now, and the City should offer some relief. Maxwell also pointed out he doesn’t think the new Homestead exemption on the ballot next year will pass. He hinted there will be powerful opposition.
  • If the Homestead exemption on the ballot next year passes it will ended up costing the City $280,000.
  • Three items in the budget, thanks to the County ¢1 sales tax proceeds: 1) Paying for the FEC crossing upgrades; 2) removing the condemned pier at Spillway Park; 3) license plate readers.
  • The Lake Worth Pier does indeed need to be repaired due to “spalling concrete”. There’s no money in the Beach Fund to pay for it. How much will it cost? Stay tuned.
  • Although the Beach Fund was on the agenda there was very little discussion about that. Got the impression everyone is just tired of talking about it; it’s a mess. Downtown parking came up briefly and the ShotSpotter technology discussed in previous budget meetings wasn’t mentioned at all. Waiting for PBSO to take the lead?
  • No one from the public spoke. However, a lot of noise is going on about the City top staff receiving another week of vacation. For those upset about that, reach out to a sports fan; they know all about retaining and attracting talent. On one hand you can’t complain the City has a hard time keeping good talent and then complain when the City takes the steps to address that issue. Just thought I would point that out.
  • As always, Marie Elianor was excellent. Our City is lucky to have her.
City Manager Michael Bornstein did a very good job explaining how the budget process works to Hardy and Robinson (the two newly electeds), but he did warn them, “It’s getting late in the game and [staff] needs some clear direction.”

Robinson’s idea of a “retreat” for the City Commission to get together in a publicly noticed place to talk and share ideas was well received by everyone. Staff would be there to listen and take notes how each commissioner sees the City going forward in the next 5–10 years.

Expect the City Commission to explore this more closely before the end of the year. Amoroso said, “It’s a way to work together and share visions.”

Not a bad idea, Commissioner Robinson!