By Steve Plunkett

    The Greater Boca Raton Beach and Park District plans to keep taxes at the same amount it collected last year despite requests from city parks officials for nearly $4 million extra.
    “We did not exact out one dollar from any of the requests of the city of Boca Raton. We have acceded to their requests and are giving them every dollar that they are asking for,” Arthur Koski, the district’s interim executive director, said at a budget discussion Aug. 1.
    The district’s $50.4 million budget for fiscal 2017 includes $7 million to build four grass fields at the city-owned Spanish River Athletic Facility at Countess De Hoernle Park and $3 million for three artificial-turf fields at district-owned Patch Reef Park.
    “We’re going to commit to that [Patch Reef] project irrespective of what the City Council may decide on phase 2 at Spanish River. But we are prepared in this next fiscal year to construct phase 2 at Spanish River and to put the artificial fields in at Patch Reef Park,” Koski said.
    The council and beach and park commissioners agreed on both projects at a June 2015 joint meeting. But no work was started while the governments tried to craft a contract. In May, City Council member Robert Weinroth said “that ship has sailed” when asked if he still favored the Spanish River work.
    Commissioner Steven Engel asked Koski whether the city would ever approve the project.
    “I want everybody to know that from our perspective, that ship is still at the dock and we’re ready to go,” Koski replied.
    City officials seek $1.1 million more than they spent this year for operation and maintenance of parks and $350,000 more for administrative, supervisory and technical costs, a 33 percent boost.
    The district can absorb the city requests because some previously budgeted projects have been delayed. It owns and operates its own parks and pays for operation and maintenance of some city-owned facilities. It also pays half the costs of beach renourishment and makes other contributions to the city.
    In late July, commissioners set the tentative tax rate at 91.47 cents per $1,000 of taxable value. The owner of a $500,000 home would pay $457 in beach and park taxes, the same as in fiscal 2016. Most district residents also pay city taxes.
    The district’s first public hearing on its budget will be at 6 p.m. Sept. 12, the same night the city will have its first budget hearing.
Boca Raton wants $636,000 more than it spent last year to maintain Red Reef Park, a 17 percent increase. The amount includes hiring a turtle rehabilitation assistant, a park ranger, a maintenance supervisor and a part-time volunteer coordinator. The city also seeks $2.5 million for capital improvement projects, including $1 million for a dune crossover at Gumbo Limbo Nature Center, $220,000 to renovate Red Reef’s restrooms and $100,600 for information technology.
    The district will spend $2.8 million on improvements at the Swim and Racquet Center and also put $300,000 in a beach renourishment sinking fund.

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