By Steve Plunkett
Police patrol officers and sergeants will get a one-time $3,750 raise to bring their salaries more in line with comparable towns in Town Manager Greg Dunham’s proposed 2020 budget.
The increase will set Gulf Stream’s starting police pay at $51,250 — behind Ocean Ridge ($53,902) and Palm Beach ($52,274) but ahead of Manalapan ($51,200) and Highland Beach ($50,400). The figures were drawn from a Jan. 1 salary survey.
“That really puts us in the middle of the five cities up and down the coast here in Palm Beach County,” Dunham said.
Dunham also recommended that town commissioners set a tentative property tax rate of $3.86 per $1,000 of taxable value, which is the rollback rate and will bring in roughly the same $4.6 million as this year’s $4.05 rate did. A house with a taxable value of $1 million would be charged $3,860 in property taxes to the city under the proposed rate.
Gulf Stream property values rose 5.5 percent this year to almost $1.2 billion.
The biggest expense in Dunham’s proposed budget will be the first year of construction in Gulf Stream’s 10-year capital improvement plan.
The town will spend $2.5 million from its water fund and about $579,000 from the general fund to upgrade the State Road A1A water main from Golfview Drive to Sea Road, then the water main north on North County Road to Little Club Road and finally on Little Club Road to the Intracoastal. The project also includes road restoration or construction.
“The total budget for this year is around $10 million; last year it was $7 million. But that increase is primarily all due to the water project,” Dunham said.
The first public hearing on the budget will be at 5:01 p.m. Sept. 13.
Dunham said the Palm Beach County School Board’s decision to hire about 150 new school police officials put pressure on small towns to examine police pay.
Mayor Scott Morgan agreed. “We need to maintain a steady and competent police force. It’s getting more and more difficult to attract new officers,” Morgan said.
Coastal communities traditionally have hired experienced officers who have retired from other forces, Dunham said.
“Most of them are not really interested in going to Boca Raton, because Boca Raton’s salary is way up there, $66,000. They would be more interested in going to the School Board — you don’t work nights, you don’t work summertime — and so I think that’s what’s happening,” Dunham said.
Town Commissioner Paul Lyons said he was “totally in favor” of boosting police pay and that he hears only “very nice things about our officers.”
“The entire team is highly professional — and I mean it, I’m not making this up — and courteous,” Lyons said. “They’re well put together; they don’t look like they just rolled out of bed.”
In other personnel moves, Dunham proposed making executive administrative assistant Renee Basel the assistant town clerk and staff attorney Trey Nazzaro the assistant town attorney.
Receptionist Dena Gillion will take on some “internal control” duties such as accepting payments for water bills.
The three, along with Chief Financial Officer Rebecca Tew, will receive raises from 5.3 percent to 12.5 percent. Dunham, Police Chief Edward Allen and other town employees will get 3 percent salary increases.
“We have a very good staff. I’d like to try to keep them here,” Dunham said.
Besides Allen, Gulf Stream’s police force has eight patrol officers, two sergeants and one lieutenant.