May TAB Update
The following is the May TAB update sent to the coalition partners. South Florida 912 is a founding member of TAB.
Since our last update, much has happened on the county level.
County Capital Projects: The County Commission voted to proceed with the convention center hotel, projecting that 35% of the costs will be provided by new general fund debt, and later (acting as the Solid Waste Authority Board), picked Babcock and Wilcox to build the $500M waste-to-energy facility (for which the bonds have already been sold). For the details see the links below.
TaxWatch Study: With this new debt looming, the County Clerk and Comptroller’s team made their annual financial report today. In the debt guide document, we can see that the total outstanding debt for the fiscal year ending last September is approximately $2.1B, an increase of about 61% since 2001. This was already about $1600 per county resident, before accounting for the burn plant. Luckily, we will get an independent evaluation of the situation through the auspices of Florida TaxWatch. Funded by the Palm Beach Civic Association and individual contributions raised by task force member Jere Zenko, TaxWatch has begun a study of county capital projects and debt as it compares to their last look in 2006 and our peer counties, and an evaluation of underutilized county land, buildings and other assets. TAB assisted in the definition of this project, and we hope to see the results of this work some time in June. For details see Palm Beach Civic Association Sponsors TaxWatch Study.
Ethics: Also today, the Commission voted 7-0 to approve the new Ethics and Inspector General ordinances, extending their scope to all 38 municipalities in the county. After a long and contentious battle over the scope of the oversight, the work of the drafting committee was accepted mostly intact. For details, see the Post story: Palm Beach County passes sweeping ethics reforms.
Budget: We are working on a TAB proposal for the 2012 budget, but there are a few balls in the air. Only a month ago, the working assumption on valuation was a decline of 5%. Since then, the Property Appraiser is re-evaluating and may come in at the 1-2% level. The Legislature passed significant FRS reform (see Pension Reform – the Final Bill) that we estimate will be worth about $40M to the county this year, counting PBSO and Fire/Rescue. Both of these things should take significant pressure off the millage rate unless there is a move to restore some of the pension take-aways to employees. We have questioned the county Budget Director about this and are awaiting a reply. We expect the answer has not been determined yet, but will be evident before the first budget workshop on June 12.
Smart Cap: The Legislature passed SJR958, which will put a “Smart Cap” (similar to TABOR) constitutional amendment on the 2012 ballot, applying only to the state budget. While county government has shown some restraint over the last few years in the downturn, with real estate values bottoming out we may again be “off to the races”. One way to prevent this would be a local version of Smart Cap, implemented as a Charter Amendment. See Smart Cap – Good for the State, Good for the County.
Finally, we have been having an interesting conversation about Fire/Rescue spending with a South County Firefighter / Paramedic on the TAB website. For an insider’s viewpoint, see Conversation with a Firefighter / Paramedic
Thank you for your interest in responsible government spending.
The TAB Team.
Throughout our analysis of the county budgets, we have been somewhat critical of Fire / Rescue. We observed that the growth of their budget (even adjusted for service area size) was significant over the last 8 years, and the firefighters in the county are compensated more than 50% above than the national… [Read More…]
On Friday May 6, the conference committee put the final touches on FRS Reform and sent SB2100 to the Governor. Although it is not as far-reaching as the Governor wanted, it is significant, both in the precedent it sets (employees must now contribute to their pensions) and in the budget savings for both… [Read More…]
As the Legislature winds down the session, there has been much progress on the bills we have been tracking that relate to county budget issues. The following is a status:
SB2100/HB1405 having emerged from conference on Friday May 6, has been sent to the governor. From the House bill,… [Read More…]
The Palm Beach Civic Association, in conjunction with the Town of Palm Beach County Budget Task Force (CBTF), is engaging Florida TaxWatch to perform a study of Palm Beach County capital expenditures, debt and reserves, and inventory of underutilized land and buildings. Funded half by the Civic Association… [Read More…]
The Florida Legislature is moving forward on a constitutional amendment for the 2012 ballot to limit state spending to a “growth factor” tied to inflation and population growth. A previous attempt in 2009 had included county and municpal governments in its scope, but that has been omitted this time…. [Read More…]
The Taxpayers won again – just barely.
After a 9 1/2 hour marathon meeting at the Solid Waste Authority auditorium on Jog Road, the SWA board upheld their selection committee’s choice of Babcock and Wilcox to build and operate the $600M waste-to-energy plant that is the biggest taxpayer-funded project… [Read More…]
This morning, the Board of County Commissioners voted 4-2 (Marcus/Aaronson/Vana/Burdick in favor, Abrams/Taylor against, Santamaria absent) to “conceptually approve” a county subsidy of $27 Million to The Related Companies to build a 400 room Hilton next to the convention center. They also approved $200,000… [Read More…]