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Our Town by William Kelly: Inflation, new employee positions, fuel larger budget proposal for Palm Beach

Inflation, new employee positions, fuel larger budget proposal for Palm Beach

The town administration has produced a $116.7 million budget proposal for the next fiscal year that would create 13 new employee positions while keeping property taxes flat for homesteaded owners.

The Town Council will consider the new spending plan, for the fiscal year that begins October 1, at its meeting on Thursday, July 11, beginning at 9:30 a.m. in Town Hall.

The new budget is about 11 percent larger than this year’s $104.8 million budget.

Inflation continues to pose challenges to controlling costs, especially for labor and materials in the South Florida construction market. The Consumer Price Index for the area that includes Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach rose 4.5 percent during the 12-month period that ended in April.

The town is facing significant cost increases for future utility burial work and for street paving, officials said at Tuesday’s regular monthly council meeting.

Personnel costs

The 2024-25 budget proposal includes $3.6 million for employee pay increases and for 13 additional employee positions. The new positions would include four firefighter/paramedics, a fire inspector, a police officer, police sergeant, three parking enforcement officers, a tennis manager, an information technology project manager, and an administrative assistant.

That would bring the number of employees up to the full-time equivalent of 384.

The pay increases include merit and step increases, market adjustments for police and firefighters, and a 5 percent cost-of-living adjustment for inflation in the regional market.

Property taxes

An 11 percent increase in taxable property values in Palm Beach during the last year has allowed the Finance Department to prepare a budget proposal with no increase in property taxes for homesteaded properties, according to Town Manager Kirk Blouin and Deputy Town Manager Bob Miracle.

The town administration is proposing a property tax rate of $2.53 per $1,000 per taxable value, which would be 3 percent lower than this year’s rate of $2.61 per $1,000 of value.

Under the proposed new rate, homesteaded properties would see no tax increase. Those without the homestead exemption would pay $161 more per $1 million of value, based on the 10 percent cap under state law.

According to the July 1 estimate from the Palm Beach County Property Appraiser’s office, taxable property values on the island rose 11.3 percent during the last year. Because of that increase, property tax revenue paid to the town would grow by $5.2 million, to a total of $77.3 million, under the lower tax rate.

Property taxes generate roughly two-thirds of all revenue that goes into the town’s operating budget.

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