A Message From Mayor Rachelle Litt
September 24, 2021
On Wednesday evening the Palm Beach Gardens City Council passed our 2021-2022 budget. In response to some sensationalized headlines about the meeting and budget, I would like to set the record straight here and would like to address some of the comments made about our budget and budget process. Things that many residents may be aware of or may have forgotten during this crazy time during the pandemic.
It is important to keep in mind that Not every City is the same. Each city faces its own challenges and differs in the way they handle those challenges.
Because PBG is such a well-run city with a stable milage rate we have been able to build up 3 different kinds of financial reserves, unassigned, budget stabilization and economic development. These reserves totaled approx. $53 million,
500 thousand dollars in last years budget. That included 26 million in unassigned reserves, 5.2 million in budget stabilization reserves and 2.3 million in the economic development reserve fund.
These reserves enabled us to balance our budget THIS year, WITHOUT the use of Recovery Act funding, unlike cities like Delray Beach who had to use that first allotment to balance their budget.
Because of these reserves, we were able to respond to the needs of our businesses and residents early on in the pandemic from OUR OWN funds. This includes 1.3 million dollars to our businesses in the form of a grant program to help keep their doors open and 300,000 dollars in cash food support for our residents. These funds were helping our community during the pandemic, way before we received any Cares Act funding.
When we did get Cares Act funds, we immediately set up a Mortgage and Rent Assistance Program, allotted money to a resident home repair and upgrade program and have set in motion a program to bring clean drinking water to one of our neighborhoods.
• So far, the City has spent $191,300 in mortgage, rental and utility service relief for its citizens. An additional $195,079 in funds are still available. If you need help with mortgage or rental assistance, information for the program and application can be found at www.pbgfl.com/pbgcares.
• The City has spent $549,599 repairing and upgrading homes for Palm Beach Gardens residents of low income. $181,928 is still available for this program.
• The City is spending $1,202,173 to bring potable water to a neighborhood that could never afford the necessary infrastructure and construction costs to do so.
• The City has identified $5,550,000 to incentivize workforce housing development in Palm Beach Gardens.
SPECIFICALLY WITH RESPECT TO AMERICAN RESCUE PLAN FUNDS
Other county and city governments are spending American Rescue Plan dollars on such infrastructure and other projects like playgrounds, parks, city hall construction, balancing their budget etc. These are things that we have been able to do as part of our NORMAL yearly budget. This would also include our Storm Water Maintenance Repair and Renovation Program & Canal Dredging Maintenance Program, both started in 2015 and that are not assessed to the residents by fees as they are in other municipalities or with ARP funding as is being done in other municipalities.
**A key point here is: The American Rescue Plan dollars are not a recurring source of revenue and therefore cannot sustain any program except for a one-time or short duration benefit. They, unlike the Cares Act dollars were intended for a CITY’S USE to offset shortfalls in revenue that they experienced during the pandemic, not a direct supplement to residents. PBG experienced a shortfall of about 2.1 million dollars in revenue during the allotted timeline. Revenue that would have gone to infrastructure spending, one of the categories allowable under federal law, and what the ARP funds are now being allocated for.
• The City is “NOT” building a golf course with COVID Relief Funding.
• The City IS spending AMERICAN RESCUE PLAN dollars to pay for INFRASTRUCTURE for 115 acres of City-owned land dedicated to recreational purposes. This infrastructure spending would have to occur on this property if we were putting in any other type of recreational facility, park or playground as other municipalities are doing with their funds. Why single out the intended use for golf?
• The City cannot build a golf course for 2.1 million dollars. The golf course is expected to require a total of $16.8 million. And is being financed by a 14 million dollar NON AD VALORUM- meaning NOT coming from taxes- bond that will be paid for by the proceeds of the golf course. These proceeds are expected to be in excess of 1 million dollars a year, a hefty revenue source that will certainly be used to further enhance the resident’s quality of life in PBG- what we were elected to do! And another example of savvy fiscal planning on behalf of the City.
• I will reiterate: The $2.1 million pays only for infrastructure such as water, sewer, electricity, etc., which is allowed under the guidelines of the American Rescue Plan.
AS FOR TAXES
• Our proposed budget is balanced at the same stable tax rate that it has been for the past six (6) years.
• The City is “not” proposing to raise property taxes. Property taxes are a function of BOTH milage rate and property values. We are proposing to keep the milage rate the same. The part the City can determine. When an area is attractive to buyers, property values go UP. That is a good thing! What you want is desirable place to live with great resident services and increasing value to the property you own.
• The proposed budget provides the same level of municipal services Palm Beach Gardens residents experience today and expect when they move here. It also moves us forward in the areas of mobility, workforce housing, and infrastructure and leaves us in good financial shape to deal with an unexpected natural event or emergency should one occur in this upcoming year.
Please stay safe as we continue to navigate our way out of the pandemic,
Mayor, City of Palm Beach Gardens