September Council: Budget, FEMA Maps, City Manager Contract

The first of two City Council meetings was held on Tuesday, September 2nd – primarily due to the required two 2014-2015 budget hearings.  However many other topics were on the agenda for this long meeting.

September 3, 2014


City Engineer Todd Engle presented details on the proposed new FEMA Flood Maps. The maps have not yet been finalized and there will be several public open houses  next week in various sections of the county. Due to negotiations taken by the City and the County, over 1200 residential property owners in Palm Beach Gardens will benefit from being removed from a flood zone and will see substantial savings on their insurance. Only two residential units still fall within a flood area as do some commercial properties. Congratulations to the staff for negotiating this significant change.

FISCAL YEAR 2014/2015 Budget Presentation and Hearing 

City Finance Administrator Allen Owens, (along with all of the department heads who were there to answer questions), presented details of the budget.  With a hefty 7.9% valuation increase in the city,  the third yearly increase in a row, you would think that the pressure is off both the city and the taxpayer.  Keeping with their multi-year plan for flat millage though, the city plans to spend all of the $3M, 6.6% increase in property taxes.   This windfall revenue will be put to use on personnel costs (raises and benefits), and infrastructure (a police trainng facility, Johnson Dairy Road improvements, FEC crossing upgrades at Burns Road).

Dr. Mark Marciano, head of the Budget Oversight Committee, made a brief presentation with the committee approving the actions and apportionment of funds in the budget. Council’s discussion, public comment and then the vote took place a little while later during Ordinance 15, 2014.

Iris Scheibl expressed concern over the 6+% increase in spending without regard to returning some of the revenue windfall from increased property valuations to the taxpayer. Former Mayor Mike Martino requested the Council to make cuts to the proposed budget to get to roll-back (spending the same as in the 2013-2014 budget cycle). Joan Elias on the other hand, was in full support of the budget and suggested that those who think otherwise should just forego a cheap dinner out during the year to make up for the increase in taxes.

Discussion by the Council was enthusiastically in support of the presented budget and the excellent work done by staff. Only Mayor Premuroso suggested that perhaps $500K from the Budget Stabilization Fund be used to allow a slight millage decrease, the rest were happy to have the new money to spend.  While others on the Council were not supportive, they asked Mr. Ferris to go back with calculations and this will be discussed at the 2nd Hearing to be held on Thursday, September 18 at 7pm. The vote was unanimous 5:0 to continue to the 2nd hearing.


(This item was a continuation of a discussion proposed by Councilman Jablin at the end of the July meeting. His issue was that term limits, if passed, would decimate the council and if the City was not assured of the continuation of the guiding hand of City Manager Ferris, that all organizational knowledge would be lost. He proposed a two-year extension to June 2018.) Councilman Russo started the discussion by saying that he was in full support of Mr. Ferris and after discussion with the City Manager,  would like to propose that the contract extension discussion and transition plans for a new City Manager after Mr. Ferris retirement, be postponed to April 2015 – after the referendum questions have been decided in November. There continues to be significant angst on the Council about the Term Limits questions, especially Q2, and what it will do to the makup of the Council. During the discussion, they did figure out that in June, 2016, when Mr. Ferris’ contract is up, the council would still have at least 3 if not 4 of the same members.  During comment, Iris Scheibl reiterated this point, and suggested that since there is excellent staff, the departure of the City Manager, if it occurred, would not destroy the City. The vote was unanimous 5:0 to delay.


This item was postponed from the August agenda in order to have a full panel to vote. City Attorney Lohman recently left the law firm for which he worked and opened his own. The Council was unanimous in hiring Mr. Lohman to represent the City.


City Manager Ferris requested a meeting between the Council and the Planning and Zoning department to discuss the many upcoming projects and to get guidance so that a policy and approach can be developed to discuss density, traffic concurrency and other issues. This was prompted after his observation that many of the projects now coming to them are different than the past – higher density and a different use mix.  Councilman Russo made it clear that this workshop would be only between P&Z and the Council and that no Public Comment should permitted. Ferris replied that yes, that is the way it is traditionally done. Public comment could happen at another time/meeting but not here. (Editorial comment: Perhaps that is true/not true – but we strongly encourage attendance and that you make the Council aware, via email, phone, public comment at future council meetings, etc. of your feedback after the workshop)


  • Team Golf participants were champions and many youth were recognized and photographed with the Council.
  • Fire Station 2 (on the corner of RCA/Monet and Gardens East) will be replaced by the end of 2015 with a new station on the property adjoining it, and the current property will be razed and converted. This is the City’s oldest station and in need of modernization.
  • The Tennis Center will also have major improvements over the next few years and Mr. Engle went over these as well.


All but one resolution including approvals for South Gardens Apartments, signage improvements for Gardens Town Square, expansion of the Day Care Center at Palm Beach Community Church (Borland Center), and updated schedule of fees and charges, passed 5:0. Resolution 58, 2014, which was a petition to extend the terms of an existing temporary modular structure on PGA National Resort’s Core Golf Course was postponed until the 10/2 council meeting as Planning and Zoning had not had a chance to review some of the presented material and plans for the property.

The next City Council Meeting/ 2nd Public Hearing of the 2014/2015 Budget will be on Thursday, September 18 at 7pm.


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