By: Councilman Scott Singer Special to the Boca Newspaper
Like many successful cities, Boca Raton conducts an annual goal-setting session where the City Council, senior city staff, and residents collaborate on visions for top priority goals for the coming year and years beyond. With our session approaching on May 4th and 5th, I touch on just some of the pressing issues that we will face this year and beyond.
Innovation: In a prior column, I stressed the need for greater innovation in city government. One of my top priority goals will be to significantly expand on our recent successes in providing innovative solutions for better delivery of services that are more cost-effective and easily accessed by residents. The city recently launched a smart phone app with a variety of services for residents and has continued to make more services (such as permits) available online and more efficiently. True innovation can transform the way residents receive information and vital services. I believe dedicated staff focused on innovation will help us implement the best-in-class offerings to residents and businesses and generate cost savings for years to come. Better innovation not only pays for itself, it makes the most responsive level of government even more accessible to residents.
Infrastructure: In recent years, the city has partnered with other entities to improve our roadways. As just some examples, funding from federal and state governments has led to the creation of the Spanish River Blvd. interchange at I-95 and plans for dedicated access lanes to I-95 at Glades Road. Given that major roadway improvements take years to plan, fund, and implement, we need to continue to prioritize better traffic planning. An idea I mentioned at last year’s session of a “complete streets” approach for downtown and a bypass to ease traffic there has gained steam, and I look forward to bringing this closer to fruition. Our discussions of downtown parking solutions and alternative transportation are also progressing. With additional annual sales tax revenues and the possibility of tens of millions from the sale of our western municipal golf course, we can accelerate some roadway projects that have been in our capital improvement plan. In addition to roads and traffic technology, we’ve planned and budgeted for substantial increases to recreation and waterfront improvements, with new green and blue space at Lake Wyman, Rutherford, and Hillsboro El Rio Parks, along with a recent dredging of the Boca Raton Inlet.
Financial Strength: Boca Raton residents can be proud that their city provides world-class services while maintaining one of the lowest tax rates of any full-service city in South Florida. We have been able to do so because of the increase in property values. Our total assessed property value is the highest of any city in the county and has finally returned to pre-recession levels. But property taxes alone don’t ensure our city’s sustainability. The continued need to create and retain high-paying jobs and strong employment is essential. Expanding our successful economic development program – especially with anticipated large cuts in the state’s offerings – will be essential to ensure our budgetary needs and to build on Boca’s corporate presence. Strong employment pays for services, keeps our home values up, and enhances our quality of life.
Land Planning: With some large redevelopment proposals looming, we would benefit from better visioning of how we’d like the city to plan for decades to come. As just one example, the city has been working with FAU and a regional planning council on how to turn an aging old industrial corridor on 20th Street into a college-oriented district that would be a gateway to the university and a potential area to retain and employ graduates, enhancing our business attractiveness. We’d all benefit from similar plans for what we’d like to see for the next thirty years for some other aging parts of the city. Smarter land planning would be more proactive from the residents’ and city’s point of view and less reactive to projects proposed by individual development interests.
Our goal setting will also review the countless other facets of our city governance, including public safety needs, challenges from South Florida’s population growth, environmental concerns, and much more. To facilitate more participation by residents, the goal-setting Session is scheduled to take place at the larger venue of 6500 Congress Avenue on May 4 and 5. Please stop by and offer your input, or contact me anytime with any thoughts on your goals and how I can better serve you.