Lantana: LAA teams with town to keep up sports fields; tax rate holds steady

By Margie Plunkett

Lantana has approved a lease deal with the Lantana Athletic Association that gives it use of a portion of the Sports Complex for free in exchange for maintaining the
quadruplex for the next baseball and softball season.

“We hand over the keys and they’re charged with handing it back in at least as good condition as it is,” Town Manager Mike Bornstein said. Lantana will continue to
maintain the irrigation system.

The town made the arrangement with the LAA after a tight budget put the Sports Complex operation on the chopping block.
The town said it no longer could shell out the operating costs as its
budget revenues from property taxes continued to fall in response to the
declining housing market.

“It’s really a good way to use the fields,” said council member Elizabeth Tennyson. “They’re really bigger than the town can afford in a good year.”

The Lake Worth Sharks also have scheduled a meeting with Lantana’s town manager to discuss a potential deal for another area of the Sports Complex.

While the Sports Complex typically closes in August to let the fields rest, Bornstein said, it had already closed by late July because Lantana didn’t have the
staffing to cover it. Resident Christopher Smith wondered why the town can’t
keep the Sports Complex open as a grassy park, where he as a runner as well as
others could enjoy the open fields.

“If you do that it becomes highly trafficked by a lot of people — and there are a lot of impacts,” Bornstein said. “We still owe money on it. We pay $125,000 a
year just in debt service. If we let just anyone use it, it will decay beyond
repair. And passive parks still require a lot of maintenance.

“I just would hate to see the space lost,” Smith said.

Council members also took budget action at the meeting, holding the tax rate steady at 3.2395 mills, or $3.24 per $1,000 of assessed value. Even though Lantana is
fiscally conservative and trying to hold the line on taxes, Bornstein said, residents will still
see an increase on tax bills because of county rates.

Bornstein will draft a letter to county commissioners on behalf of Lantana council members, outlining the municipality’s plan to hold the millage rate and asking
them to do the same.

Lantana’s total taxable value fell 17 percent to $722.5 million. The mayor pointed out that the town has seen its millage rate drop by half since 2002, moving from 7
mills then to 3.2395 mills this year. The tax rate is still tentative and can
be decreased — but not increased.

But holding the line on taxes has resulted in budget cost cutting that has meant measures like turning over partial operation of the Sports Complex to the LAA
because it’s too expensive for the town to run. Other budget cuts have come in
the form of a six-month-early retirement for Police Chief Rick Lincoln and the
cutting of two police captains’ positions as one will become the police chief
and the second is departing voluntarily.

For the third year, town employees won’t have cost of living increases, Mayor David Stewart said, and he praised town staffers for their valiant attempts to
balance the budget that have brought them into range with an $87,000 deficit

“This budget does take out all the fluff, any basic nice little things that we try to do in the town,” Stewart said. “There are no extras. We’re just providing basic
services to keep the tax the same.”

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