Boca budget OK’d; Last-minute cash added for Mizner putting green, SRHS band trip

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By: Dale King Contributing Writer
Boca Raton’s general fund budget for fiscal year 2016-2017 went into effect Oct. 1. The $161 million spending package adopted unanimously by the mayor and City Council following a public hearing Sept. 26 lists $7.6 million in additional expenses compared to the 2015-2016 spending plan, but the tax rate drops by an almost infinitesimal amount – from $3.6799 per $1,000 valuation to $3.6789 per $1,000.
City Manager Leif Ahnell said homeowners’ tax bills may rise a bit or drop some, depending on how much the value of their home has increased in the past year. He said that overall, municipal property values have gone up 7.46 percent in the past 12 months.
Council members completed the adoption of the new budget during a 90-minute meeting that included a public hearing. Mayor Susan Haynie offered a couple of adjustments to the budget at the 11th hour, neither of which affects the city’s bottom line, said Ahnell.
Haynie got unanimous approval to allocate up to $10,000 to create a putting green at Mizner Park, likely in the median across from the Cultural Arts Center at the south end of the retail-residential-cultural facility downtown. She also won all colleagues’ approval to add $12,000 to the budget to pay for a parade trip for the band at Spanish River High School.
Council members glitched a bit when several parents spoke during the public hearing, objecting to a proposal to increase from $55 to $75 the cost of a non-resident youth athletic fee. Those who spoke said they felt the hike would be detrimental to out-of-town families with several children participating in sports.
After a couple of ballots, the council voted, 3-2, to trim the fee hike to $65 per child, with the stipulation that efforts would be made to come up with a discount plan for families with several children participating in athletics.
In his budget message, Ahnell said Boca Raton is adding 76 employees to city staff. Several of these are part time positions that are becoming full time. The cost of all new jobs is just over $4 million.
New personnel to be added to the municipal payroll in the fiscal year that began Oct. 1 are four code officers, a zoning officer, six public safety call takers, eight police officers, 16 firefighters, a fire training captain, a fire contract administrator, a streets supervisor, transportation analyst, traffic signal technician, municipal services contract administrator, a digital librarian and four groundskeepers.
In addition, the city will tap the general fund for a three-person pressure washing crew and four groundskeepers for beautification maintenance; a sea turtle rehabilitation assistant, maintenance supervisors, two groundskeepers and a park ranger for the Greater Boca Raton Beach and Park District; a parking meter maintenance supervisor and parking enforcement officer for the Community Redevelopment Agency; a packer/operator and three refuse collectors for the sanitation fund; two utility program inspectors and a capital improvements project manager for the water and sewer operating fund and an assistant manager for the cemetery/mausoleum fund (position converted from part time.)
The Information Technology Fund will add four jobs – IT public safety manager, operations manager, telecommunications technician and business analyst for the Recreation Department.
Also included in the budget, said the city manager, is $138,200, to cover increased salaries for the mayor and City Council members. The raise was approved by voters who adopted a referendum in the Aug. 30 primary election.
The new budget includes a hike in the fire assessment fee, from $85 to $105 for residential service. The jump for non-residential property depends on the size and type of the parcel.
Ahnell projects no increases in the sanitation department or for the sewer and water segment of government.