By Jane Smith
Delray Beach leaders were able to trim about $5.6 million from next year’s proposed city budget, mostly because the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency agreed to pay $4.5 million more toward improvements at Pompey Park.
That reduction is offset by the addition of an estimated $1.35 million to finish the renovation of the Crest Theatre building on the Old School Square campus.
The city, which owns the building, stopped the renovation in July 2021 in a dispute with the former Old School Square operators over the construction contract.
Delray Beach decided to end the lease with the former operators, who then sued the city in November for breach of lease. The city recently asked the judge in the case to allow it to file a counterclaim, seeking reimbursement of its expenses to finish the Crest renovation.
To find other budget savings, the city staff proposed pushing back the purchase of a mobile performance stage for two years, retaining $250,000, Public Works Director Missie Barletto said at the Aug. 22 City Commission workshop. She also said the city has $374,693 more in its penny surtax fund than previously anticipated, which will be saved until its proper use is determined.
In addition, Barletto said the purchases of two police cruisers and several stand-up electric patrol units were removed, saving another $101,730. “That captures the comments that you had made at the last (budget) meeting,” she said. “We are listening and paying attention.”
At the end of the workshop, Commissioner Ryan Boylston reminded his colleagues that $3.7 million more than the goal of 25% of the city’s operating budget sits in the reserve fund.
“That’s $3.7 million of taxpayers’ money that is sitting in reserves and not being used for their benefit,” he said.
The first and second public hearings on the proposed tax rate and budget will be held during regular commission meetings that start at 4 p.m. Sept. 6 and 19. The public hearings on the tax rate and budget cannot begin before 5:01 p.m. at those meetings.
The city set the proposed tax rate at $6.67 per $1,000 of assessed property value, down slightly, 2.54%, from the current tax rate of $6.84 per $1,000. Both figures include the city’s debt service.
The city’s proposed operating budget is $166.4 million, a 9% increase.