Fire/Rescue Contract Negotations Dominates Budget Hearing

The purpose for the September 17, 2015 City Council Meeting was Second Reading of the proposed 2015/2016 Fiscal Year Budget. But as in the previous hearing, most in the audience were there to support Fire/Rescue during Public Comment. After six folks made their comments asking the Council to take action, City Manager Ferris made a substantial presentation on the status of the negotiations. He began by saying that it’s not his practice to negotiate in public, but that he wanted to get the facts out to the public and to the employees in Fire/Rescue who may also not seen the data. We strongly suggest that residents interested in the topic review the City Manager portion of the video with his presentation. Mr. Ferris concluded with his hopes that the union will come back to the table and continue negotiations.

September 17, 2015

Mayor Jablin believes that during the time he’s been on the Council the compensation packages have been fair. “We want to be in the top 5” and the City Manager’s data showed that the city is. He commented that one speaker’s suggestion that the salary increases be taken out of the substantial reserves wouldn’t work, since the increases remain and in short order there would be no more reserves. Council member Russo said there is way too much emotion and encouraged both sides to ‘come back to the table’, and make the decision based on facts. The outcome would be far better if it is a result of negotiations rather than the Council deciding after an impasse.  Vice Mayor Levy said “our firefighters are the best in the State, if not the country”, and that the Council acknowledges that there is a compression problem and that the negotiations should reach an accord. Council member Tinsley agreed 100% with members Russo and Levy and suggested that all go back to the table, behave professionally and take the emotion out of the decision. Council member Premuroso suggested that both sides forget about dates/deadlines/schedule and come to an amicable resolution. Read the post article on the City Manager’s presentation here.

budgetMayor Jablin called a 5 minute break so that those leaving could clear the room, after which the Budget Ordinance and associated Resolution were passed 5:0.


Martino: Feather Your Nest

featheryournestDid you know that in September 2004 the then part-time Palm Beach Gardens City Council which included some of today’s part-time City Council members (Russo, Jablin, and Levy) conveniently approved an ordinance that doubled their existing salaries to $24,000? They also provided themselves with profitable benefits, such as, self-serving automatic annual cost-of-living raises, and health benefits for themselves and their dependents. In recent years lucrative retirement benefits were added to the package. All of this compensation for a part-time job is paid for by the taxpayers. Yet the public is not afforded any input!

Per the newly proposed 2016 City budget the part-time Palm Beach Gardens Mayor and City Council will be compensated annually as follows…

Councilperson Mayor
Salary $28,564.00 $31,109.00
Pension $12,219.40 $12,219.40
Health-care $19,397.40 $19,397.40
Total Compensation $60,180.80 $62,725.80


By virtue of a City Charter change instigated by these same Council members, the part-time Palm Beach Gardens City Council is required to meet only once per month. There may be more time spent but is it enough to justify the above?

In addition to the salary and benefits, the 2016 budget for the City Council pays for seminars and conferences, memberships and dues, professional services, contingencies, materials and supplies, business cards, and so on. The total of all annual 2016 budget costs for the five part-time Palm Beach Gardens Council members to the taxpayers is…



$92,474.40 each

 The recent September 10th City Council of Palm Beach Gardens was gaveled to order promptly at 7:00 PM. The meeting was adjoined approximately two hours later. Using the above budget figures each City Council member collects in base salary $28,564 while the ceremonial part-time Mayor collects $31,109. To illustrate, perhaps, to the extreme, based on the City Council’s schedule of one regular meeting per month, for those two hours the taxpayers paid the City Council members in salary only approximately $2,380.34 each, or $1,190.17 each per hour, and the Mayor approximately $2,592.42, or $1,296.21 per hour.

The five part-time Palm Beach Gardens Council members are among the highest compensated of all local governments in Palm Beach County. As far as I can determine, it is the only City that holds regular meetings with the public just once per month.

Owing to the unquestionable fact that City Council members are considered part-time city employees, I query the legality of most of the salary, retirement, health and life insurance appropriations on their behalf. Are other part-time City employees compensated with the same extravagance? Since when does an organization, or government, or business, or otherwise, annually pay salary of $ 145,541 as proposed, retirement benefits of $ 61,097 as proposed, and health benefits $ 96,987 as proposed, for five part-time employees that are obliged by charter to work only one day a month for possibly 1 to 4 hours.

Are the five part-time Palm Beach Gardens Council members serving their neighbors or feathering their own nests? 


Next City Council Mtg / Final 2015/2016 Fiscal Year Budget Hearing on September 17

The next City Council Meeting will be this Thursday, September 17, at 7pm in City Hall.  The only item on the Agenda, other than Consent, is the Second 2015/2016 Fiscal Year Budget Hearing. On Consent is Resolution 42, 2015, allowing the City Manager to apply for and accept a Highway Beautification Grant with FDOT.

See our summary of last Thursday’s City Council Meeting (including the First Budget Hearing) here.  It includes links to the powerpoint presentation that Finance Director Allan Owens made, as well.

The agenda (with links to full detail) can be found here.  Check the agenda to see if any additional items have been added before the meeting

The Best Budget Ever!

While the primary topic for the September 10 City Council meeting was the first hearing of the 2015/2016 Budget, much of the meeting was spent on Public Comment. The chamber was filled with a sea of yellow shirts worn by members of Fire/Rescue and their supporters. Media was also there to capture the action.

First up was Thomas Murphy, President of the PBG Police Foundation to describe the 9-11 Rememberence Essay competition. Then Fire/Rescue Chief Southard introduced the winners – First Place: Brandon Gitto, Second: Rebecca Newbold, Third: Alexis Simm. For more details see here.

September 10, 2015

Senator Abruzzo was to give a Legislative Update, but had to cancel and will do so at a future meeting.

City Manager Ferris had no report, but mentioned that the Purchasing Department – Km! Ra, had once again been honored with a prestigious award. Congratulations!

Most of those present were there for Public Comment which was next. The Fire/Rescue contract expires on 9/30/15 and negotiations had reached an impasse. The 6 speakers spoke on the excellence of Palm Beach Gardens Fire Rescue/Paramedics, how their lives or loved ones lives had been saved, and the primary issue of salary compression. The Council thanked the speakers, but Mayor Jablin said that he couldn’t comment more due to the negotiations. Council member Russo spoke eloquently on understanding the frustration, that a similar issue had been resolved for the police, and that he expected a resolution for this issue as well. For more details see: the Palm Beach Post summary.   Mayor Jablin then offered a 5 minute recess so that those wanting to leave could clear the chambers.

Three additional folks had comments related to traffic in the Central Avenue/117th Court area. All acknowledged problems in the area, but were not in agreement on the solutions. The Council assured them that before any changes will be made, a lot of work still needs to be done and that it will be the subject of future meetings.

Hal Valeche, County Commissioner District One, spoke emotionally about the passing of long-time aide, Cindy DeFeLippo to Commissioner Marcus and then Valeche. The members of the Council knew her well, and had spoken of her loss in a prior Council meeting.

Finally, Allan Owens, Finance Administrator, gave an excellent presentation on the proposed budget. The Council had challenged staff to come back with a millage rate decrease, yet balance that with fulfilling the needs of the City. Mark Marciano, Chair of the Budget Oversight Committee, gave a report supporting staff’s recommendations. The Council was pleased with the results with Council Member Levy saying “solid budget”, Council Member Tinsley calling it ‘most transparent’, Council Member Russo mentioning that it would be the last budget he votes on, and counseling staff to not add employees; Council Member Premuroso called it a ‘spectacular budget’ and pointed out that millage had been lowered for 2 years ina row, that the budget allowed for funding the IG should the lawsuit appeal be lost, and that in 4 years the general obligation bonds will be gone. Mayor Jablin thanked staff and City Manager Ferris thanked all the department heads for the hard work needed to make this budget happen. Note that this budget still grows by 4%, but less than it would have had millage been kept unchanged.

We in PBGWatch – also thank them all for giving back to the taxpayers. Gardens is to be commended to be one of the few municipalities and taxing authorities to not just gobble up the valuation increase wind-fall. See gardens-budget-splits-the-difference-with-the-taxpayer.

The Second Hearing will be next Thursday, September 17, at 7pm in City Hall.

Gardens Budget Splits the Difference with the Taxpayer

The FY2016 Budget for Palm Beach Gardens will be discussed at the first public hearing on September 10.

Property valuations are up significantly this year, and some jurisdictions are reaping large windfalls by leaving their millage flat. The county for example, will see a tax increase of over 9%, which will be their largest budget in history, growing by $61M in new taxes – bigger than the entire budget for PBG.

The Gardens Council is being more responsible than the county and proposes to return some of the valuation windfall to the taxpayer. It should be noted though, that this year’s proposed $51M in revenue is the largest budget to date, exceeding those of the boom years of 2007-2008.

As the included chart shows, when the valuation bubble burst in 2008, PBG increased the millage to maintain flat tax revenue around $50M, then relented in 2009 and let revenue decline below $45M as the economy remained stagnant. Now that there is an increase in valuation (over 6% this year) the proposed millage would be reduced to limit the rise in revenue to just under 5% (on top of 5.3% last year).

If the millage were left unchanged, it would have generated over $52M, so the “extra” $1M (2%) would be returned to the taxpayer.

Compared to the money grab that’s going on at the county, we should be grateful to our staff and Council for their restraint. If you go to the meeting on Thursday, thank them for that, and ask them to stick to the plan. It is still possible to raise the millage (up to 5.67), and some groups may come to lobby for more spending.

First Reading 2015/2016 Budget and Legislative Update on Sept 10

The next City Council meeting will be on Thursday September 10, 2015 at 7pm. This is the first of two City Council meetings in September due to 2015/2016 Budget Hearings. The second reading of the budget will be held on September 17, 2015.  I have heard from multiple sources that Fire/Rescue employees plan to attend the Sept. 10th meeting to object to the impasse on contract negotiations – so expect a ‘packed house’.

Announcements/Presentations include a Legislative Update by Senator Abruzzo.

The Consent Agenda includes:

  • Resolution 39, 2015 – which is a collective bargaining agreement with SEIU.  In accordance with the current three- (3) year contract effective October 1, 2014, through September 30, 2017, between the City and the SEIU/Florida Public Services Union, Article 28, Salary Plan, was open to negotiation for Fiscal Year 2015-2016. The City’s negotiating team met with representatives of the SEIU/Fiorida Public Services Union on June 17, 2015, and successfully reached a Tentative Agreement to provide all bargaining unit members a 3% salary increase effective October 1, 2015.
  • Resolution 40, 2015 – approving the plat for the new Fire Station #2
  • Purchase award/Independent Contract Agreement for a Tennis Professional worth $65K
  • Purchase award for Mowing and Landscaping Services for roughly $1.7 million for 3 years, competitively bid
  • Purchase award/contract for Medical Director for EMS, for $135K for 3 years.
  • Purchase award for Public Art – Repairs, Maintenance and Conservation for around $300K, for 3 years, competitively bid

The Regular Agenda is comprised of  Ordinance 12, 2015 – Public Hearing for First Reading of Ordinance 12, 2015 Adopting the Fiscal Year 2015/2016 Budget with a proposed operating millage rate of 5.55 and a debt millage rate of .1371 for a total tentative millage rate of 5.6871 mills for Fiscal Year 2015/2016.  This is a decrease from last year’s millage; the proposed operating millage represents an increase over the roll-back rate (which would be the same revenue as last year) by 4.02%.  While homesteaded properties will see a slight decrease or little impact – those with commercial and rental properties and second homes will be seeing a tax increase.

See the proposed budget here and read the Memorandum to Mayor and the City Council. The Budget Oversight Committee report can be read here; it is in support of the proposed budget and millage.

The agenda (with links to full detail) can be found here.  Check the agenda to see if any additional items have been added before the meeting.