By Jane Smith
Delray Beach commissioners passed a $151.4 million budget on Sept. 22 by drawing $5.2 million from reserves and making $2.76 million in cuts.
The reserves will be used to pay for one-time expenses, including a $150,000 generator for the information technology department, $953,605 for the city’s share of the Homewood Boulevard reconstruction joint project with the county’s Transportation Planning Agency, and a replacement air-conditioning system for the police headquarters at $400,000.
The major cuts came from stopping the city’s free transportation services in the summer months, saving about $500,000; postponing software improvements in Development Services that would allow online filing of permits, saving about $1.05 million; transferring $1 million dedicated to economic development to the general construction fund, and reducing police overtime, saving about $421,000.
Police Chief Javaro Sims said the overtime cuts will not harm police services. City special events have been reduced because of the coronavirus restrictions against large gatherings. That reduction led to fewer overtime details for city police.
After the commission’s Aug. 11 workshop when commissioners had asked for more cuts, interim City Manager Jennifer Alvarez had suggested layoffs might be needed to balance the budget. But by the final budget meeting it was determined that no employees would be laid off or forced to take furlough days.
The coronavirus impacts have hurt cities nationwide by reducing income from parking meters, street valets, sales tax dollars and bed tax money.
Delray Beach just restarted its meters downtown on Sept. 18. They had been turned off for six months. In addition, the commission granted reprieves to valet operators for the rest of the year.
The budget includes $39,000 for salary increases for the commission and the mayor. The raises will go into effect after the new commission takes the dais in late March. The annual commissioner salaries rose to $24,000 from $9,000 and the mayor’s salary increased to $30,000 from $12,000.
That is nearly a 300% increase. The commissioners said they recognized the timing was not ideal when everyone was cutting back because of coronavirus concerns. They also said their salaries are much lower than those of elected officials in nearby Boca Raton and Boynton Beach.
Plus, they agreed that if the economy does not turn around in January, they could always postpone the raises.