By Jane Smith
Delray Beach commissioners agreed to add four firefighter/paramedics when approving a $1.95 million mid-year budget amendment on June 18.
The four firefighter/paramedics will cost $160,000, said Laura Thezine, acting finance director. The amount covers the entire cost of the firefighters for the rest of the budget year that ends Sept. 30, according to Kevin Saxton, Fire Rescue spokesman.
Adding the positions fulfills the previous commission’s promise to add 12 firefighter/paramedic jobs that had been cut from the budget during the recession.
During budget hearings last year, Commissioner Ryan Boylston insisted that the commission make good on the promise and fill the final four positions.
“Back in 2016 and 2017, the fire department was running constantly from one overdose to another,” Mayor Shelly Petrolia said after the June 18 commission meeting. In mid-2017, Delray Beach turned the corner and began responding to fewer fatal overdoses. The drop was attributed to local and county efforts.
The city’s new law regulating sober homes went into effect in July 2017. That’s when the city began requiring sober homes and other group homes to apply annually for a reasonable accommodation and limited the distance between two new group homes. The city also required the sober homes to become certified.
In addition, the Delray Beach Police Department hired a special populations advocate who works with drug abusers to help them find treatment locally or send them home.
At the same time, the Palm Beach County State Attorney’s Sober Homes Task Force began arresting rogue treatment center operators and moving to strengthen state laws.
That’s why at the start of the city’s financial year last October, Petrolia wanted to hold off on hiring the firefighter/paramedics and spend the money elsewhere. She suggested waiting until the mid-year budget amendment when the city often has a surplus.
The bulk of the money for the $1.95 million budget amendment would come from three sources: $795,000 in increased property tax revenues, $539,000 reimbursed from the county school district and $400,000 in investment interest income. No money would need to come from the city’s reserve funds.
The money reimbursed by the school district was for providing city police officers in the local schools. The reimbursable amount was budgeted to make sure expenses matched revenues, Thezine said.
In addition, about $900,000 was budgeted to fulfill the city’s obligation under its tennis tournament contract. The amount had not been previously budgeted, even though commissioners had asked the previous city manager to do it.
The budget amendment also covers $87,500 to help cover the cost for instructors who provide paid lessons to tennis center members, $72,421 in unanticipated retirement pay for firefighters, $111,612 for additional repairs and maintenance by Public Works, and $74,975 for new computers and equipment at the Emergency Operations Center.
Commissioners passed the budget amendment 4-0. Boylston was on vacation and could not be reached electronically to attend the meeting.
Delray Beach will set a tentative tax rate at its July 9 City Commission meeting. At the Aug. 13 workshop, commissioners will discuss the city’s budget.
In other news, Delray Beach reached an agreement on June 14 with India Adams, a former assistant city manager who was fired March 6. She will receive a gross sum of $9,459.52 to cover 50 percent of her unused sick leave and 100 percent of her unused vacation days.
In exchange, Adams agreed to not make disparaging comments about the city, its staff or elected leaders. She will not release any confidential information she has about the city and will alert the city if she receives a subpoena about her Delray Beach position.
In turn, the city will not contest any unemployment compensation claims that Adams may make. Ú