Salary Increases for Employees Proposed at February City Council

At the end of the February City Council Meeting during “Items for Council Action and Discussion”, Vice Mayor Premuroso floated the idea of spending a $1.5 million apparent surplus in the current year budget on employee raises and selected capital improvements. The raise amount suggested was 2% – equivalent to what working people are paying again at the expiration of the two year reduction in the payroll tax. The others were enthusiastic in their support for the idea, as Councilman Russo added “the employees are our biggest strength”. Russo was not for carte blanche capital spending, however, preferring to look at each proposal in detail.

The proposal was placed in the context of the Council’s intention to maintain flat millage for several years. Property valuations, which bottomed out last year, are expected to rise – perhaps significantly this year if the anecdotal evidence is credible. If so, “flat millage” will not be a friend to the taxpayer.

We are expecting a spending spree at all levels of government. The President has said that we “.. don’t have a spending problem”, although 83% of the country know we do. Our one-time “conservative” Governor has proposed major increases in the state budget, trying to win favor from a variety of voting groups as he looks to the 2014 election, even as CFO Jeff Atwater was predicting a flat $70B only a month ago. The County has a large pent up demand for more spending after several years of flat growth. Hopefully, Palm Beach Gardens will not succumb to this spending fever.

City employees may be due an increase after several years of going without, and there are likely some capital projects in the area of deferred maintenance that could use some attention. The economy is still weak however, and many businesses in the country remain shuttered. The Council would be wise to exercise restraint as the budget is developed, and consider the taxpayers needs as well as the government’s. A millage decrease would not be out of line if valuations head upwards.

In other action at the meeting, the Council approved on first reading the “implementing ordinance” (Ordinance 4, 2013) for the successful ballot initiative which granted them the ability to award tax exemptions to new or expanding businesses they favor. Although the ballot measure was sold with the idea that specific rules would be written into the ordinance to identify qualifying recipients, the ordinance is vague. The Council would prefer “flexibility” so as to make awards to businesses that may be outside the intent of the measure with out the “risk of lawsuits”.

Several bookkeeping adjustments were made to the comp plan and code of ordinances (Ordinance 27 and 30, 2012 and 3, 2013), a minor amendment was made to the Trevi at the Gardens PUD, and a resolution was passed supporting the state proposed ban on texting while driving.

The next scheduled Council meeting is Thursday, March 7.

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