By Tim O’Meilia
Ocean Ridge town commissioners continued to wrestle with how to pay for six “wish list” items that would cost $167,000 in next year’s budget.
Making all the wishes come true would mean dipping further into town reserves – up to $337,000 – or increasing property taxes above the current tax rate of $5.35 per $1,000 of taxable property value or something in between.
“We’re looking at taking in excess of 10 percent of our reserves to balance our budget,” said Commissioner Ed Brookes, searching for an alternative. The town has about $3 million in reserves.
“I think we really need to live within our means,” said Commissioner Zoanne Hennigan. “To continually take out of our reserves isn’t fiscally prudent.”
This year, the town took $174,000 from reserves, including $100,000 for capital projects. The proposed budget would again take $100,000 for capital items, $167,000 for the wish list and $70,000 in addition.
Commissioners generally favored adding the wish list items during July 31 and Aug. 5 meetings but that may change at the Sept. 10 budget hearing.
On the list is $55,000 in computer equipment, $26,000 for a second new police car and computer, $20,000 for a used bucket truck, $14,500 for an all-terrain vehicle for beach patrol, $16,000 to make a part-time maintenance position full time and $36,000 for raises for the police chief, lieutenant and two senior dispatchers.
At $72,000, Police Chief Chris Yannuzzi is the lowest paid in Palm Beach County, according to a salary survey. Two sergeants will earn more than Yannuzzi next under their union contract, Town Manager Ken Schenck said. Unlike the chief, the sergeants are eligible for overtime as well.
The budget also includes 3 percent raises for general town employees, matching the salary hikes for police under their union contract.