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Delray departments slash budget requests to help balance budget

To balance the city’s nearly $140 million operating budget for the upcoming 2019-2020 fiscal year, interim city manager Neal de Jesus said department heads had to make about 2 percent cuts from their budgets.

Even with the cuts, the city will still have to dip into its reserves for about $1 million to balance the budget, he said.

“It was very difficult to balance this budget with the deficit without going to the well,” he said. “We were many millions in the hole coming into this budget.”

This current fiscal year’s budget was balanced by putting over $5 million from the city’s reserves.

City commissioners challenged the manager to reduce expenses after they agreed to lower the city’s millage rate by one tenth, an action they have done since 2014.

The city’s property tax rate will be 6.86 mills per $1,000 of taxable property value for the upcoming fiscal year. A Delray property owner with a home valued at $350,000 with a $50,000 homestead can expect to pay about $2,058 in city property taxes.

The city will hold two public meetings to set the tax rate this month. The fiscal year begins Oct. 1.

Delray employee placed under paid suspension as investigation into Neighborhood Services Department continues

A Delray Beach Neighborhood Services Department employee has been placed on administrative suspension with pay as an investigation into the department continues, according to interim city manager Neal de Jesus.

In an email to city commissioners, de Jesus said he placed Jennifer Costello on a paid suspension as the city continues to review “documents and communications.”

“This action was necessary to protect any potential evidence subject to the investigation as well as limiting information from being shared with those currently under investigation,” he wrote in his email.

An investigation into the department has been underway since its director and another employee resigned amid allegations they were involved with misappropriating grant monies.

It is unclear how long Costello’s paid suspension will last.

Guest artists’ work on display at library

Visit the second floor gallery of the Delray Beach Library and see creations from artists Mary Anne and Don Sarka.

Marry Anne Sarka is an acrylic painter and Don Sarka is an oil painter. Meet and greet the artists during the First Friday Art Walk on Sept. 6. The artists will be at the library from 3-4 p.m. and will speak at 3:30 p.m.

The exhibit will run through Oct. 19.

New, free downtown transportation services launch this month

Locals and visitors will have two new, free ways to get around downtown.

The Delray Community Redevelopment Agency will introduce Connect Delray Beach on Sept. 3, an initiative that will include a fixed route and on-demand transportation service.

These services will replace the current Downtown Roundabout Trolley and supplement other on demand transportation services to achieve two goals: provide locals and visitors with additional green transportation options to a larger service area and cut down on downtown traffic and parking problems. Both services are fully funded by the CRA, so all rides are free.

“What excites us most about this new program is that it will provide an overall broader service area including the West Atlantic area (East of I-95),” said Renée A. Jadusingh, Esq., Executive Director of the CRA. “It is going to bring more mobility options to the CRA district area of service and provide a more holistic system of transportation. It is also a free service for everyone!”

The Downtown Roundabout Trolley provided a round-trip service along Atlantic Avenue from the Tri-Rail station to Ocean Boulevard/A1A seven days a week. First Transit, the current provider of the fixed route service, already has new vehicles in place with plans to add a few new stops along the way, providing a modified route throughout the downtown core between Swinton Avenue and East Fourth Avenue to alleviate traffic.

Through Connect Delray Beach, the CRA is also offering an on demand transportation service pilot program that will service the CRA district. Freebee, a South Florida-based electric transportation company, will provide the service with GEM (Global Electric Motorcars), which are low-speed, battery-electric vehicles. Guests can request a ride through the Freebee app anywhere in the downtown CRA service area, which includes most locations East of I-95 to A1A, and Gulfstream Boulevard to S.W. 10th Street. Riders of the fixed route can also track the vehicles through the Freebee app.

For additional information and to find routes and timing for the service, visit https://delraycra.org.