The city of Boca Raton is getting its financial groove back.
In the new fiscal year that began Oct. 1, the city seems to be breaking loose from the recession that began in 2008 and forced staff layoffs and program cuts.
The City Council on Sept. 18 OK’d the 2014-2015 spending package which adds 22.5 new positions, extends lifeguard hours and restores business times at the two public libraries to pre-recession schedules with the return of evening hours.
When the vote came to approve the budget, council members actually added programs with a total price tag of $325,000. Bringing back evening hours at the libraries alone costs $125,000.
Assistant City Manager Mike Woika said the additions to the budget would be covered by moving cash within the total plan without increasing it. The city will not raise the General Fund budget of $135,830,500 nor will it change the new tax rate of $3.71 per $1,000 valuation, a one penny drop from the 2013-2014 budget.
The $135.8 million figure is “a decrease of $18,223,600 from the 2013-2014 operating budget, City Manager Leif Ahnell said during a budget explanation session in August. “This decrease includes $20.6 million of one-time transfers to establish Economic Development and Retirement Sustainability Funds” offset by an increase of $2,376,400 (1.8 percent) for ongoing spending.
“It’s nice to put money back into the budget,” said City Councilman Robert Weinroth. Council member Scott Singer said the city’s ability to weather tough fiscal times and still come out with the lowest tax rate in the area “is a testament to the talents of the many men and women” employed by the city.
In addition to the $125,000 to restore library hours, the council approved the following budget additions:
• A motion from Deputy Mayor Constance Scott to allocate $50,000 to study the intersection of Palmetto Park Road and Fifth Avenue for possible improvement.
• Another motion from Scott to give $50,000 to the Florida Atlantic University Research Park for grants to start-up companies in its business incubator program. “I wholeheartedly support this,” said Councilman Scott Singer. Mayor Susan Haynie said it was “an economic benefit.”
• Allocated an additional $50,000 to the Festival of the Arts BOCA for its annual program of music, dance, acrobatics and speakers, held at Mizner Park. The money will be used to hire acts early, before costs can be offset by ticket sales.
• Adopted a motion from Councilman Weinroth allocating $50,000 for a study of the Hillsboro-El Rio Park in south Boca. Recreation Director Mickey Gomez said the city has already built the north side of the park. Some residents want the south side completed now, though there was some opposition expressed at a hearing held by the Greater Boca Raton Beach & Parks District a few days before the budget meeting.
Among the additional personnel being hired by the city this year will be a full time building inspector, three groundskeepers, a wastewater plant operator, a downtown marketing coordinator, an economic development director and staff to bolster the city’s parking enforcement department.
The 2014-2015 budget holds the line on sanitation fees for curbside and container collections. Water and sewer fees edge up a tad, rising about $1.06 a month for water and sewer service.
City beaches will get concession stands with food and beverages along with lounge chairs, umbrellas and places to get snorkeling equipment in the new spending plan. Under a one-year agreement, Oceanside Beach Service will pay the city $54,000 for the right to rent beach furniture and sell snacks and drinks at Boca’s three beaches.
In addition, a televised football game called the Boca Raton Bowl is scheduled for Dec. 23 at FAU’s stadium. Ahnell said the project is a joint effort of the city, county and the ESPN Network. The budget contains about $200,000 to help fund it.
Under the new budget, the owner of a home with a taxable value of $250,000 ($300,000 minus $50,000 homestead exemption) in Boca Raton will pay $1,113.78 in property taxes this year.
Source: Pineapple Newspaper