By Steve Plunkett
Commissioners of the Greater Boca Raton Beach & Park District and the city’s parks director used unanticipated savings on health care costs and some financial sleight of hand to come up with a fiscal 2018 budget proposal with which both sides could live.
District commissioners balked in July at city Recreational Services Director Mickey Gomez’s $16.9 million request for his staff to operate and maintain district facilities, up from $15.6 million he expects to spend this year.
Gomez sharpened his budget pencil to propose a more palatable $15.9 million at the district’s Aug. 9 meeting.
The biggest single savings — $238,400 for the district alone — was a result of “huge reductions” Gomez said city officials negotiated the week before in health care costs.
Gomez also identified $591,200 in items that would be nice to have but were not critical, then cut the amount by $74,000, saying two Ford F-350 trucks would last another year.
Commissioners put $44,300 into a reserve account to convert two part-time park rangers into one full-time position, to hire a part-time carpenter for the Gumbo Limbo Nature Center and to buy a $1,100 computer for the center’s sea turtle rehab technicians.
“It’s not a lot of money. If it makes a huge difference for them, I don’t see why we can’t do it,” Commissioner Erin Wright said.
And Commission Chairman Robert Rollins said the city should pay $128,500 to rent a restroom trailer for Mizner Bark dog park, not the district. The district only pays for maintenance of the city-owned facility, he said, so district residents can use it.
“We didn’t say anything about we’ll pick up any additional capital items,” Rollins said. “That’s an item I think the city should put it in there. There’s been enough complaints about it.”
Commissioners said they would consider the rest of Gomez’s wish list when he decides he needs the items and pay for it out of another reserve fund.
The district’s tentative property tax rate is 91.47 cents per $1,000 of taxable value. Commissioners scheduled the first public hearing on their $47.5 million budget for 6 p.m. Sept. 7.