Smart money

Bud­get ad­dresses way to drive down long-term pen­sion costs

Palm Beach Daily News - - OPINION -

What a dif­fer­ence a bud­get year makes. With­out much fan­fare late last month, the Town Coun­cil ap­proved an $82.4 mil­lion bud­get for 2018-19 that is praise­wor­thy for what it does and doesn’t do. What it does is tackle one of the town’s big­gest prob­lems, the ex­as­per­at­ing pen­sion short­fall. What it didn’t do is di­vide the coun­cil as in the last bud­get year, which led to a turnover at the top of Palm Beach gov­ern­ment.

First things first. The just-ap­proved 2018-19 bud­get con­tains a 5.3 per­cent in­crease in prop­erty taxes, which will pump $2.7 mil­lion more into town cof­fers — a to­tal of $54.2 mil­lion. Though the bud­get calls for cut­ting the prop­erty tax rate from $3.20 per $1,000 of tax­able value to $3.13 per $1,000 (which is mer­i­to­ri­ous in it­self), rev­enue will still climb be­cause prop­erty val­ues are fore­cast to in­crease by an av­er­age of 7.75 per­cent.

With the ex­tra funds, the coun­cil will smartly bol­ster pay­ments into the town’s re­tire­ment fund in an ef­fort to drive down long-term pen­sion costs. The bud­get calls for pump­ing $16.3 mil­lion into the pen­sion pro­gram, an in­crease of $1.4 mil­lion over the last bud­get year, as part of a plan to elim­i­nate a long-term un­funded li­a­bil­ity in as few as 10 years.

In July, when the then-pro­posed bud­get was first pre­sented to the coun­cil, mem­bers ap­plauded it, which is in stark con­trast to the 2017-18 $80.5 mil­lion bud­get, which was ap­proved only by a 3-2 vote as some mem­bers sought more spend­ing cuts. The coun­cil was crit­i­cal of thenTown Man­ager Tom Brad­ford’s han­dling of the bud­get as well as Mr. Brad­ford’s fail­ure to de­liver a pen­sion re­port that some said was ur­gently im­por­tant to its de­ci­sions when putting to­gether a bud­get — and soon af­ter­ward the board voted not to ex­tend his con­tract.

Town Man­ager Kirk Blouin, Fi­nance Di­rec­tor Jane Le Clainche and Deputy Town Man­ager Jay Bood­hesh­war should be praised for their work on the just-ap­proved bud­get. While Mr. Brad­ford was a true pro­fes­sional who wanted only the best for the town, it was nice not to see the in­fight­ing and ran­cor this time around.

In­deed, what a dif­fer­ence a bud­get year makes.

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