Delray Beach adopts budget, set tax rate

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By: Marisa Gottesman Associate Editor
Delray Beach will be spending more money on first responders and upgrades to city assets.
Part of the city’s $110 million budget includes adding new police officers and more firefighters and paramedics to the city’s public-safety departments. Total, City Hall will add 16 positions to several departments.
The budget will also pay for technology upgrades in City Hall, repairs to seawall and docks, upgrades to the beach promenade and replacement of Fire Station No. 3.
To pay for the city’s expenses, residents will pay $7.21 for every $1,000 of taxable value, which is less than the current rate of $7.34. Despite the decrease, taxpayers will likely see an uptick in their bills because property values have increased about 10 percent in Delray, according to the Palm Beach County Property Appraiser’s Office. If you are located in the Community Redevelopment Agency district, values have increased about 13 percent.
That means if you own a $250,000 home with a $50,000 homestead exemption you can expect to pay about $1,442 in city taxes.
Commissioners Shelly Petrolia and Mitch Katz voted against the budget. They wanted to see the tax rate lowered even more. Katz preferred an alternative proposal not supported by staff that lowered the millage slighly more.
“If we didn’t have the boom years that we have had we would find a way to survive on less,” Petrolia said. “We can do better.”
City Manager Don Cooper said the budget reflects the goals set by commissioners.
Commissioner Al Jacquet said the city is making progress on lowering the tax rate over the years he has sat on the dais.
“You can’t cut too much too fast,” he said. “If we go too far too fast we are endangering public safety, repairs that might need to be made.”
When it comes to the city’s police department, the increase of four officers will bring the total of officers to 160. Police Chief Jeff Goldman said he would like to see the department have 170 officers in the next three years.
The city’s Community Redevelopment Agency will pay for two of the officers, who will be assigned to the Clean and Safe Unit, which is responsible for keeping downtown both clean and safe for residents, business owners and visitors.
Positions he would ideally like to see added include a part-time special projects coordinator dedicated to community outreach, a special events coordinator, a special population advocate to work with the recovery community, homeless population and those with mental health illnesses and a video assistant to help with the body cameras and surveillance cameras.
To help combat the city’s growing overdose epidemic, the city has planned to add more firefighters and first responders.
Fire Chief Neal de Jesus said he would like to add 24 firefighters/paramedics to his department over the next three years. That would mean the force would have 173 personnel. The department plans to add eight positions this upcoming fiscal year.
Other positions the city plan to add include a park ranger, who will be responsible for patrolling the beach for dogs, a long range senior planner and a human resources employee to assist the police department with recruiting.
The CRA will spend its $28 million budget on redevelopment projects, economic development, and improvement projects. More than $6.3 million will pay for infrastructure projects the city has identified including renovating alleyways and upgrades to Old School Square park. The agency will dedicate $3.8 million to debt service and will spend nearly $200,000 more on the Clean and Safe program to total $2.5 million. Of the overall budget nearly $4 million will pay for city services that fall into the district.
Cooper said the city and agency have worked together to develop a long-term capital plan.
The Downtown Development Authority will levy its 1 mill tax to downtown property owners. The DDA is slated to see an increase in its budget from $692,831 to $798,975. Some of the budget is raised in sponsorships and the rest from taxes.
The authority plans to spend its money on promoting the downtown through marketing businesses, contributing to the clean and safe program and promoting economic vitality.
Commissioners commended the authority for decreasing its administrative costs from last year and for bringing forth fresh ideas.