Council Election Results

Congratulations to David Levy for winning another 3 years on the City Council. Congratulations also to James D’Loughy for running a good campaign and making the race unusually competitive. The voters have spoken (although only 11% of them did so), and it was good that they had a choice in this race.

From the graph below, you will see that David Levy maintains a strong base of support in Ballen Isles and PGA National, while Mr. D’Loughy picked up support in Frenchman’s Reserve and Creek, coming within 6 votes there.

Click on the map segment for detailed results for that precinct or refer to the table below.

Precinct Registered Cast Levy D’Loughy % Turnout
1186 1459 153 67 86 10
1188 787 47 17 30 6
1190 2358 215 81 134 9
1192 1438 97 56 41 7
1194 1875 482 244 238 26
1238 1541 222 131 91 14
1240 2484 236 154 82 10
1242 2491 322 204 118 13
1244 1502 183 122 61 12
1246 2140 133 59 74 6
1248 1491 210 106 104 14
1250 70 13 9 4 19
1252 2272 726 573 153 32
1254 442 59 46 13 13
1260 1298 126 49 77 10
1264 7 0 0 0 0
1266 563 11 6 5 2
1268 302 8 6 2 3
1270 12 0 0 0 0
1272 1898 183 75 108 10
1274 1602 163 63 100 10
1280 436 30 13 17 7
1284 2268 119 101 17 5
1288 38 7 6 1 18
1290 2143 151 84 67 7
1292 61 9 3 6 15
1296 727 17 10 7 2
1306 8 0 0 0 0
1310 4 0 0 0 0
1324 1304 40 22 18 3
1326 588 52 25 27 9
1340 14 0 0 0 0
1352 2067 125 69 56 6
1360 932 72 19 53 8
1372 149 6 3 3 4
TOTALS 149 4217 2423 1793 10.9

Council Votes 3-1 to spend $1.6M on Employee Raises, Bonuses and Capital Projects

At the March City Council Meeting, Ordinance 1, 2013 passed on second reading with a 3-1 vote. A routine adjustment of budgeted initial fund balances, the $1.6M “surplus” reflecting higher revenues collected or lower actual expenses than budgeted, was wholly targeted to new spending.

So what is the context for this apparent relaxation of austerity? Has the local economy turned the corner?

The details of the proposal were first proposed in February by Vice Mayor Premuroso – a 2% across the board raise for all employees, a 1.5% one-time bonus on top of that, and $783K of capital spending, including $611K for golf course irrigation modernization.

Cautionary comments were made by residents. John Chaplik cautioned that the economy has not improved enough to raise spending levels and thought should be given to returning some to the taxpayer. He also suggested that there be a review of how surpluses are handled. Kevin Easton suggested that performance based raises made more sense than across the board increases. Iris Scheibl pointed out that the county property appraiser is projecting a meager 1.5% increase in valuations and that the economy has not turned the corner. She also mentioned that last years’s move to raise the communications tax was based on the threat of declining reserves which we are now apparently spending. Two others spoke in favor of the ordinance.

In discussion, all the Council Members were in favor of the raises, and some wanted to increase the bonus to 2%. “Our employees are the best in Florida, if not in the country” said Eric Jablin. “We will lose these people if we don’t reward them”, said Joe Russo. Marcie Tinsley agreed we should proceed with caution, but the staff has done a good job without complaint. These three were less supportive of the capital spending and Joe Russo went so far as to vote no on that basis, as he believes the normal budget process is the time to consider things like golf course improvements.

The Vice Mayor sealed the deal with a well prepared and somewhat eloquent pitch for his proposal as presented. In his business (Bert Premuroso is a banker), he is seeing an uptick in the economy and across the board raises. He does not favor merit based increases as “some people don’t like them”, and foresees this level of raises as being a normal thing for the next few budget cycles. He reminded us that they have committed to flat millage for five years (instead of reducing it as valuations climb), and the increased property tax revenue that will result will let us continue to improve employee compensation and capital improvements.

With Mr. Premuroso’s closing, only Joe Russo maintained objection (only to the capital projects) and the ordinance passed 3-1.

It should be noted that the 2% increase applies to the Council as well as staff, although they turned down the bonus. A 2004 ordinance described by Eric Jablin as “making it easier to raise our pay”, requires that any cost of living increase given to employees must also be given to the Council. The City Attorney confirmed that to forgo the raise they would have to repeal the ordinance.

Since Mr. Premuroso signalled his intention to offer raises again next year, it may be useful to examine how the city employees are compensated relative to their peers in the county and other municipalities. We will be analysing this in a future article, but for now consider:

1. In the 2013 budget, the average employee compensation (salary and benefits) was $111,488, with an average salary of $73,681. This compares to about $67K for county government employees, and a county-wide average income (all employers) of $51K.

2. The current average city employee salary is 45% higher than the county average income. In 2006, when the average city employee salary was just $61K, it was only 27% above the county-wide average income of $48K.

3. In 2011/2012 a 3% employee increase was implemented for all FRS (Florida Retirement System) employees (not police and fire/rescue) to compensate for the fact that a state law mandates that they would now have to pay 3% in salary toward their pensions annually. It was justified by the Council

“.. as a fair and equitable method to prevent a reduction in salaries for employees that have not had a raise since October 1, 2008.”

4. In the text of the 2012-2013 budget it states:

“In order to meet the challenges brought about by reductions in revenues due to current market conditions, the FY 2013 budget includes the following significant items:

– No salary increases for any employees
– 0% increases for FY2013-2015 under the new IAFF contract”

In the last three budget years, the beginning balance adjustments have been considerable – an increase of over $5M in 2012, $8M in 2013, and this year’s $1.6M. Perhaps in the future it would be wise to project during the budget cycle how such a “surplus” would be spent if it materializes. That would be useful information when the discussion turns to “spending” or “saving” the revenue expected from increasing valuations in the next few years.

* Note:
1.Employee average salary is obtained by dividing budgeted salary by number of employees. Total compensation contains salary, retirement, FICA, Health Insurance and Workers Compensation.
2. County-wide income is taken from PBC budget documents.

On the agenda for March 7 – spending the budget surplus

The City Council will be conducting its March meeting on Thursday, March 7 at 7pm.  The summary agenda can be viewed here.   Please review it for items that may be of interest to you.  Two agenda items which caught our attention:

Ordinance 1, 2013

First on the regular agenda is 2nd reading of Ordinance 1, 2013 – which “Amends the Fiscal Year 2012/13 budget to adjust fund balance carryovers to actual amounts and to carry forward amounts committed from the FY 2011/2012 budget for outstanding purchase orders and open projects that cross fiscal years.”

At the last council meeting, it was suggested that as there was a $1 ,658,725 surplus, perhaps it could be used to give the employees a 2% increase and apply the remainder to fund some capital improvement projects.  Staff has come back with the following proposal:

  • A 2% Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) for all full-time and year-round part-time employees – $399,479
  • A one-time 1.5% lump-sum payment for all full-time and year-round part-time employees – $476,493
  • Funding for capital improvement projects that need to be addressed in the current fiscal year that are unbudgeted – $782,753

The Capital improvement projects proposed are:

  • Golf course irrigation modernization – $610,753
  • City-wide security system enhancements –  $50,000
  • Covered structure for Fire Department generator – $50,000
  • Youth Enrichment Center fenced multipurpose area – $72,000

The complete details of the ordinance can be found on the full agenda starting on page 48.  The agenda is very long and will take awhile to download.

NOTE:  Correction – There was a suggestion of a lump sum (bonus) at the last council meeting on top of the 2% suggested COLA.  But there doesn’t seem to be anyone on the council suggesting that the surplus be returned to the city’s taxpayers.

Resolution 21, 2013


This resolution will be of interest to those who have followed the long history of issues with the Sunset Drive neighborhood after annexation.  It establishes procedures to be used in bringing forward proposals, determining assessments, getting the votes from the affected neighborhood etc.   Residents of any communities who may have similar needs should carefully review the proposed policies and address your questions to the council.

Grassroots Groups Host Council Candidate Forum

On February 28, PBG Watch, along with the South Florida 912 and the Palm Beach County Tea Party, Taxpayer Action Board and the Palm Beach Gardens Residents Coalition hosted a candidate forum for City Council election, featuring former Mayor David Levy and challenger attorney James D’Loughy.. Moderated by Daniel Martell, CEO of the PBC Economic Council, the candidates were asked a set of questions about current issues facing our city, some of which proved to offer a real choice between the candidates. Present for the forum (and keeping them honest) was former Councilman and now County Commissioner Hal Valeche, and Councilman and former Mayor Eric Jablin.

The meeting was kicked off by the leaders of the sponsoring groups, including Shannon Armstrong, leader of South Florida 912, Michael Riordan, President of Palm Beach County Tea Party, Kevin Easton, President of Palm Beach Gardens Resident’s Coalition, and Fred and Iris Scheibl, co-founders of the Taxpayer Action Board (TAB) and PBG Watch. Timekeeping duties were performed by Barbara Grossman.

Below you will find a summary of the event, with the questions that were asked, and a link to a video of that section of the forum.

Forum Questions
Opening Statement:

James D’Loughy: Business attorney, bring business sense to the council

David Levy: Environmental consultant, very accessible, will help solve people’s problems

Question 1, Budget and Spending: With property valuations bottoming out, there was less pressure this year on programs and tax rates. Assuming we see increasing valuations in future years, how can we prevent the explosion of spending that occurred during the last period of rising property values? What can you say to the employees who want raises and the special interests that want more funding for their programs?

James D’Loughy: We can prevent it by having some businessmen on the council who know about saving for a rainy day, not overcommitting to our employees and having to break deals with them after the fact. Believes in performance based raises, not across the board, to incent improvement. Across the board increases is socialism. You have to work with special interests but should make sure it benefits the taxpayer.

David Levy: Started on the council in 2004 at the start of the real estate boom, weren’t spending like crazy – put 4-20M in the reserve fund, cut expenses by $9M during the recession by making govt more efficient, don’t expect to hire any more staff, nor expand the services we already have. Employees should occasionally get a cost of living adjustment because of inflation. Support 2% proposed raise since we cut back on staff and they are working harder than ever.

Question 2, Economic Development: Attracting businesses and jobs to the city can be approached in a number of ways. One is to provide tax incentives and outright payouts for infrastructure development like the county did with Scripps. Another is to subsidize private business directly. Another way is to make the city attractive as a place to create or expand a business by reducing the tax burden and simplifying the permitting process. What is your preferred approach to economic development?

James D’Loughy:Attract business by making this an attractive place to live and people will come. Keep density low and minimize traffic, call on retired top executives in the area like Jack Welch to attract companies from around the world, work with the BDB and Enterprise Florida, build businesses not more homes.

David Levy:Proud of simplifying permitting – can now get one in 3 days, most business-friendly thing you can do, why so many business people supporting me.

Question 3, Environment: The city has many beautiful parks and green space that add to our quality of life, and areas that are environmentally sensitive have been protected. When the economy improves and more land is developed (specifically Vavrus Ranch), how would you maintain a balance between no-growth environmental activism and overly prolific development?

James D’Loughy:Respect private property rights, need balanced approach, preserve watersheds and envrionmentally sensitive areas.

David Levy:We’ve been good at this, 40% of PBG is in conservation, best use of Vavrus is public use, financing of which we would need help from state or federal government.

Question 4, Ethics: The voters overwhelmingly approved the Inspector General and Ethics Ordinances and their application to municipal as well as county government. 15 cities (now 14) including Palm Beach Gardens have sued the county over the planned IG funding mechanism, but many would say it is an attempt to thwart the wishes of the voters. How should this standoff be resolved and what is your view of Karen Marcus’ proposal to de-fund the IG auditing function – an operation that the IG has said is central to any certified Inspector General operation?

James D’Loughy:Not proud of the city – lawsuits are a zero sum game, council as public servants have duty to listen to the electorate, city has been arrogant – IG would have cost $30K last year and they should have paid it, given the conviction of corrupt county politicians, we need the IG to insure transparency and good business practices

David Levy:The City of PBG has always supported the Inspector General, but taxpayers were told it was funded by .25% of contracts but instead we have a system that we can’t estimate the amount – this is why WPB filed the lawsuit against the county and PBG joined them. Suit has gone on too long, PBG wants to be proactive and solve the lawsuit, the sooner the better

Question 5, Ethics: The city has been criticized by the IG and others for renewing the Waste Management contract without allowing competing bids, and placing the item on the agenda for a vote with no prior notice. What will you do if elected to insure an open and fair contracting process?

James D’Loughy:Responsibility to the taxpayer to get the best price – it is business 101 to bid it out when there are other companies who want to bid, Joe Russo voted against it and so would I have

David Levy: In year 6 of 7 year contract, negotiated with Waste Management to see what they came up with, I think we got the best price, agreed to not raise rates in year 7, nor the next 5, we may have got a better price but I doubt it and am proud of what we did.

Question 6, Charter: The city attempted to “clean up” the charter and bring it into compliance with state law and practice with a 2012 ballot amendment which failed. The amendment was criticized as having been developed without a charter committee, and ignoring past proposals. What is the next step? What other charter issues should be considered (eg. term limits)

James D’Loughy: God forbid the founding fathers would have acted like that – having the city manager direct the city attorney to rewrite the charter, propasal was not understandable and I’m glad it failed, needs to be of the people, not of the government.

David Levy: Tried to do too much too quickly, should form a charter review committee and have them add and subtract from the one that failed, then change it piecemeal over the next couple of years.

Selected Additional Questions from the Audience:
Written questions submitted by the audience included topics on Vavrus development, annexations, term limits, voter turnout, truancy, council process, vision, pay raises, evaluation of the City Manager, and council member benefits.
Closing Statement: