By Dan Moffett
With the budgeting in Ocean Ridge comes a debate over semantics.
A sizable new expenditure in the town’s proposed 2014-15 budget is $85,000 to hire another police officer.
Town commissioners are supporting the hiring as a way to respond to the complaints of beachfront residents who say the town needs to crack down on misbehaving beachgoers from across the bridge.
Just don’t call the new cop a “beach patrol officer,” however.
During their budget workshop on July 23, one of the many decisions commissioners made was to make it clear that the additional officer won’t be charged exclusively with patrolling the beaches and will have the same job description as others in the department.
Mayor Geoffrey Pugh calls the proposed new hire “an extra policeman,” avoiding potential controversies about designations that might appear to favor one neighborhood or another.
Commissioners say decisions about how to deploy the extra policeman will be left up to Police Chief Chris Yannuzzi. But there is no debating that the commission hopes the new hire will help convince beachfront residents that the town is serious about reining in misconduct on the beaches, a nagging issue for most of the last year.
Briny costs not passed along in full
The proposed budget also has $76,000 to replace two police cars. The department is receiving $203,500 from the town of Briny Breezes to provide police services for the next year, based on a formula that calls for a 1.5 percent increase over the consumer price index of 2.1 percent.
Commissioner Richard Lucibella complained that the town’s law enforcement budget rose 18 percent last year and is going up 7 percent in the proposed budget, yet those increases aren’t getting passed on to Briny Breezes.
“You’re passing only 3.6 percent on to Briny,” Lucibella said. “Let’s think about that. You’re falling behind every year.”
Commissioners did more grumbling over the cost of fire and emergency medical services from the Boynton Beach Fire Department. The bill for 2014-2015 will be about $979,000, up from about $655,000 when the contract started 10 years ago, because of a 4 percent minimum annual increase.
“We need to put something in the budget we can use as a negotiating point,” said Commissioner James Bonfiglio, who wants to explore other options for EMS providers. “We need to increase our hand.”
Town Manager Ken Schenck brought forward a proposed budget based on last year’s tax rate of $5.35, meaning a homeowner would pay $535 for each $100,000 of assessed value. To balance his proposed budget, Ocean Ridge would have to use about $436,000 from its reserves. Schenck said a tax of $5.93 is needed to balance the budget without using reserves, a 17 percent increase over the rollback rate.
Commissioners approved a maximum tax rate of $5.5 and scheduled another budget workshop for 5 p.m. Aug. 11. Public hearings on the proposed 2014-15 budget will be held at 5 p.m. Sept. 9 and Sept. 16.