The Palm Beach County Commission’s second budget workshop produced some fireworks Monday, with commissioner comments topping the list of the meeting’s most interesting happenings.
The quote of the day came from Commissioner Shelly Vana while questioning County Administrator Bob Weisman about where the money came from to fund pet project, the“Golden Palm Awards.” Weisman responded that some of the funding came from the operating budget and some came from other sources, adding that he felt it was important to reward good employees.
To that Vana replied, “How about the reward this year is that they still have a job.”
The meeting, which focused on previously cut programs and services and the anticipated costs of restoring them to the budget plan , began with comments from the public. Among those who spoke included those who could least afford cost increases or cuts to services such as Palm Tran. Individuals and business owners also spoke on the need to keep taxes flat and to trim spending, saying they could not bear more financial hits in this economy. Then there were those who said they didn’t mind spending a little more to keep the quality of life they already have.
The fireworks first started between Commissioners Burt Aaronson and Paulette Burdick. Burdick suggested that in tough times, the county couldn’t afford the costs of maintaining public amphitheaters, adding that tax revenue shouldn’t be going toward entertainment. Aaronson fired back that on the Fourth of July, those amphitheaters were full of people celebrating, saying it was the county’s duty to provide such services.
Aaronson then made the motion to set the millage rate at 4.875, which would allow the commission to restore funding to most of the programs and services commissioners agreed to cut in their last workshop. Commissioner Priscilla Taylor seconded the motion, saying that commissioners, under the more austere budget proposal, were being counterproductive by “saving pennies” when they instead needed to find efficiencies to make a bigger difference in cutting costs.
Commissioner Steve Abrams offered a substitute motion to keep the millage rate at last year’s level of 4.75.
Vana pointed out that commissioners needed to “do more with less instead of less with less.”
She added that she would not support the 4.75 rate right now, but probably would not support the 4.875 in the future and that they needed to find more efficiencies in running the county.
In the end, the millage rate of 4.875 — an increase of 2.6 percent over last year — passed with a vote of 4-3, with Commissioners Abrams, Burdick and Karen Marcus opposing.
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