Delray Budget Beefs Up Public Safety

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Staff report

Delray Beach has plans to spend a majority of its budget this upcoming fiscal year on public safety and infrastructure improvements.

The city has about a $118 million budget for the 2017-2018 fiscal year. The amount is $6.6 million more than the current budget.

Some of the budget comes from what property owners are charged in taxes. The proposed tax rate is $7.09 for every $1,000 of taxable value. That amount is less than what was charged last year, but property owners may see a higher tax bill because property values in the city increased.

If you own a $350,000 home that is homesteaded, your tax bill will total about $2,179.

The city plans to spend its money on 21 additional public safety employees for the police and fire departments.

The commission has made a commitment to increase the number of public safety personnel and is backing its promise by adding eight paramedics, five police officers, three lifeguards and an ocean-rescue captain.

With damage from Hurricane Irma, interim City Manager Neal De Jesus said the city is expecting an unexpected shortfall of $1.5 million in the general fund of the budget.

Despite the shortfall, he said staff has come up with a balanced budget. Conservatively, he said early estimates indicate more than $10 million in damages to city properties from the hurricane. It is unclear how much of the costs will be eligible for reimbursement, he said.

“Staff went through some painstaking sessions,” he said of the budget process.

Part of the city’s budget includes creating a temporary emergency operations center because the city’s current one was not up to par to handle a major storm. It had roof leaks, power outages and a failing generator.

The city’s Community Redevelopment Agency is helping the city with its budget by funding several capital improvement projects in its district totaling more than $24 million. Those initiatives include paving alleyways in the Northwest/Southwest neighborhoods, new sidewalks and other neighborhood projects.

Editor’s note: At press time, the city commission had not formally voted on the final budget or millage rate. The commission can decrease the tax rate, before second and final reading, which was held on Sept. 26.