Former Mayor Martino on the Budget: Tell the Council to move to Rollback!

In my opinion, the most important responsibility of an elected City Councilperson is the preparation and presentation of a City’s annual budget. A City budget should be fiscally responsible while providing for the health, safety, welfare, and recreation of its residents. It should provide for livable wages and benefits for the employees who provide and maintain the City’s necessary municipal services. In essence, a City’s budget provides for the quality of life that residents expect to enjoy as a result of their tax contributions. From my perspective, a City’s budget is more than just an Administrative to do list; it is an annual “living promise” that the City will protect, improve, and enhance, the lives of all of the City’s residents with fiscal integrity.

The taxpayers of Palm Beach Gardens have incurred the same economic hardships in the last several years as referenced in the Finance Department’s budget comments to the City Council. The beleaguered taxpayers are constantly hit with the drip, drip, drip of small but steady tax increases every fiscal year, by all and various taxing bodies. Residents are facing rising costs, such as, health care, food, utilities, and so forth. Many of our City’s residents are on fixed incomes and some have faced the ugliness of unemployment.

In recognition of these realities, it is my recommendation that the Palm Beach Gardens City Council set operating millage policy at the rollback level of 5.4082 mills, instead of the proposed 5.7404 millage, and instruct the Administration accordingly. This would be a minimal amount of appreciated relief for the taxpayers. I would strongly urge and encourage the City Council to move in this direction.

The 2015 budget proposes to spend $ 135,329,444. To reach the rollback millage rate of 5.4082 would require an estimated $ 3,000,000 decrease in spending which is approximately 2.2%. As a former Mayor and City Councilman I feel comfortable in stating that by combining some spending reductions with a small revenue supplement from the burgeoning reserve accounts and, perhaps, finding a few more dollars on the revenue side would accomplish rollback millage without causing any financial problems to City’s fiscal health. According to the information in the budget, various reserve funds total $ 39,720,548. That’s a lot of reserve. Just in the Unspecified Balance Reserve Fund, alone, there is $ 23,470,597 which is 32% of operating expenses. This is nearly double the required minimum reserve balance of 17% established by policy.

Mayor Premuroso exhibited his concern for the residents and his leadership by offering to move toward the rollback millage rate at the September 3rd meeting. But with possible exception of Councilwoman Tinsley, Vice-Mayor Jablin and Council members Levy and Russo were less than enthusiastic to take up the taxpayers cause and embrace the Mayor’s suggestion. I would encourage anyone reading this memorandum to email and/or contact the City Council members (info here) and persuade them to, at the minimum, support Mayor Premuroso’s position to move the millage rate closer to rollback rate of 5.4082 mills.

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