By Mary Thurwachter

Despite a robust boost in property values — an increase of $78 million to $1.21 billion for the new fiscal year (including $14.4 million in new construction), Lantana will still need to pull $37,937 from reserves to balance its $20 million budget.
“We are not allowed to print money, we are not allowed to not have a balanced budget,” Mayor Dave Stewart said during the final public budget hearing Sept. 23. “So, in layman’s terms, if we didn’t go into reserves, or have them to get that money, we could be losing one in personnel, one police officer or someone like that along the way. So, we’re going into reserves for that amount, which is minimal in the scope of things.
“It’s nice that our councils for the last 20 years have tried to take a fiscally responsible approach,” Stewart said. “We haven’t had to lay anyone off and we haven’t had to stop services, we haven’t had to do any of that because we’ve been able to keep money in the reserves and act fiscally responsible.”
The money collected from property taxes amounts to about 20% of what it costs to run the town, Stewart said. Other money comes from gas tax revenue, sales tax sharing, revenue sharing from the state and various grants.
The tax rate is the same as last year, $3.50 per $1,000 of taxable value — which represents an increase of 5.58% from the rollback rate of $3.3151 necessary to fund the budget.
Employees will get a 1.5% cost-of-living raise and may be entitled to merit raises up to 5% based on annual evaluations.
The town will add a detective and another dispatcher for the Police Department. And part-time staffing hours will be increased at the town library.
From its share of the 1-cent sales tax, Lantana will spend $9,000 for a deck at Sportsman’s Park, $129,000 for improvements at the beach, $120,000 for a playground at Bicentennial Park and $453,000 for upgrading roads.
“Next year we will be paying off our debt for all except about $65,000 and we’re finally paying off our 1998 revenue bond,” Stewart said. “The money we borrowed in the early 2000s for the water plant, the money we refinanced for new water and sewer lines, the money we borrowed for all the road paving we did in the early 2000s, all of that will finally be paid off.”

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