County Commission Holds Off-Site Retreat
At Newcomb Hall in the Riviera Beach Marina today, County Commissioners sat in an open circle with Administrator Bob Weisman and County Attorney Denise Neiman. In this casual setting, they got to know each other better, discussed priorities for the next 5 years in the morning, and previewed the coming budget in the afternoon.
Each commissioner had their own priorities to discuss, but some common themes were “sustainability” – preparing for higher energy and water costs and their implications to the county, Everglades restoration, dealing with the problems in the Glades communities, and building on the investments already made in Biotech.
The budget discussion was a preview of what is to come, somewhat suggestive of the narrative during last September’s hearing. With the Property Appraiser projecting a 5-8% decline in values for the next tax year, the initial county planning number is 5% (6% decline in current property with 1% new construction according to Budget Director Wilson). This puts the estimated valuation at about $121B.
In order to have the same countywide ad-valorem tax revenue as 2011 ($603M), a millage increase to over 5.00 would be required. Since 5 is a “psychological barrier”, Adminstrator Weisman projected that 4.95 would be his recommendation to avoid significant cuts. The commissioners on the other hand, were more of a mind to hold the millage flat at 4.75 and asked for a budget at that level with a list of the cuts necessary to achieve it. Commissioners Burdick and Marcus reported feedback from constituents that they would rather see cuts in services than tax increases. Commissioner Aaronson on the other hand says his folks don’t mind paying more to keep the services they have come to expect. In any case, there was consensus for the 4.75 sizing and that is what will be returned. Since the Sheriff’s budget is about half of the countywide ad-valorem, he has been informed that flat millage will require $25M from his budget.
(TAB comment: It should be noted that flat millage with a 5% reduction in valuation from $127B yields a $30M shortfall. Additional reductions in other revenue sources are expected though – from the gas tax and federal grants among others. Therefore, the problem will likely be more like $50-60M at least).