The Coastal Star

Delray Beach: City Commission considers cutting grants in budget

By Dan Moffett

    For about as long as anyone can remember, Delray Beach has budgeted money to groups that do good work in the community — supporting organizations such as the city’s Public Library, Historical Society and the Boys & Girls Clubs of America.
    Those times may be changing.
    Chief Financial Officer Jack Warner showed the City Commission a 2014-15 budget proposal on July 15, and with it came his recommendation that commissioners take a hard look at grants for nonprofits.
    To underscore the point, Warner recommended eliminating the $25,000 annual donation the city has made to the Boys & Girls Clubs of America.
Nothing against its “wonderful” work, said Warner, but BGCA will do all right without Delray’s money.
    “It’s not a financial decision,” he said. “It’s more a conceptual decision. The Boys & Girls Club that serves us has a total budget of $7-plus million and a $15 million endowment. They simply don’t need our $25,000, and we can use it elsewhere.”
    Warner is recommending keeping grants at last year’s level for other nonprofit groups such as the library and historical society, but going forward, as the city gets more aggressive about tightening its budget, commissioners should think about finding alternatives to writing checks — perhaps through collaboration that involves sharing services or facilities.
    Mayor Cary Glickstein said the city has to make a priority of “untethering” itself from a 30-year tennis stadium commitment that “jumps out to me as the albatross, white elephant … black hole” that is draining the budget of around $2 million annually. Warner said the tennis stadium obligation “has planted a time bomb in the middle of the city’s budget.”
    The cost of police service went up 5.4 percent in the new budget, and fire service rose 12.4 percent. Total expenditures are up about 6 percent, year over year. Warner said he was “flabbergasted” to learn that 25 percent of the city’s property tax revenue goes to fund the police and fire pension obligations.
    The proposed budget does not reflect possible increased revenues from the installation of downtown parking meters, which commissioners are considering.
    The commission voted unanimous approval for Warner’s recommendation that the city set the property tax rate for the next fiscal year at $7.46 per $1,000 of assessed value, down from the current rate of $7.51. Delray Beach’s taxable values rose about 9 percent from last year, according to the Palm Beach County Property Appraiser’s Office, but, Warner said, the city is still about $1.5 billion below its peak assessed value in 2008.
    The commission will hold final hearings and seek public comment on the proposed budget on Sept. 4 and Sept. 16.

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