By Margie Plunkett
Lantana kicked off its budget process with the prospect of further drops in property tax revenue and other income that could once again force it to grapple with cost cutting. But as one council member put it, the glass is looking more like it’s half full.
Soon after the town’s May 23 budget workshop, the Palm Beach County Property Appraiser released figures estimating Lantana’s property values dropped 4.3 percent to $692 million. That’s still a vast improvement from 2010, when Lantana saw property values decline about 17 percent, according to property appraiser estimates.
The 4.3 percent decline was on the less painful side of the scenarios Lantana had laid out, which showed:
• A 3 percent property value decline would equal a $66,817 drop in revenue.
• A 5 percent drop would equal $111,361, and
• An 8 percent reduction would result in $178,178 less revenue. Lantana — like muni-cipalities everywhere — has been forced to cut back over the last several years and finding new places to reduce spending is ever more difficult. The town has cut 15 positions from its labor pool in the last four years, leaving Lantana with the equivalent of 93 full-time positions currently.
“I don’t want to see services cut, anybody laid off,” said meeting regular, resident Bob Little. “We’re down to the nitty gritty now.”
Already the town is falling behind, putting off work that needs to be done to keep spending down, Little said. “If you lay people off, it’s going to get worse. You have to find the money somewhere,” he said, adding that maybe the town has to raise taxes.
Among the casualties of budget cutting past: the town’s fireworks display this year. Lantana will, however, still put on a 90th anniversary celebration, but the Lantana Historical Society will sponsor that with the help of the Kiwanis Club. The celebration will be held at Town Hall.
There are some positives signs. In the current fiscal year, revenue is projected to exceed the budget by $110,000, with a boost from fees and fines, according to the town’s presentation at its budget workshop.
Building permits and zoning fees were up $29,000, parking violations were up $52,000 and code violations were up $35,000, but were also countered by lower revenue from falling franchise fees, including Florida Power & Light’s, which were down $42,000.
Lantana’s revenue projections for the 2011-12 budget cycle anticipate the continuing challenge from falling property values. But revenues not related to property are also projected to fall $155,000 next year, according to the presentation: Income is on the decline from boat trailer decals, beach decals, parking meters and a charter school that’s closing.
The town expects to gain revenue from a new lease deal from Fire Rescue Station No. 37 that will bring in $63,800; a new cell tower, $22,800; and building and zoning fees, $30,000.
The expenditure side also has its ups and downs, with spending on police pensions expected to decline $85,000, but health insurance costs to rise $170,000.
The next step in the process for Lantana is to review department spending requests and to await the certified property tax valuation expected to be released July 1.
Council will hold its next budget workshop at 6:30 p.m., June 30 at town hall. Ú