Abrams demands ‘more cuts, more outsourcing’ to reduce county’s 2010-2011 budget
Story, photo by Dale M. King
BOCA RATON – District 4 Palm Beach County Commissioner Steven Abrams is still wielding the ax that he took from Boca Raton municipal office to the county’s governing board.
He said he doesn’t like the reductions being brought to the table by County Administrator Bob Weisman. “I didn’t support this approach,” he said. “I want more cuts and more outsourcing.”
He said that the problem facing commissioners is “when we make cuts, various groups ask us to restore them.” He said that about 150 to 200 business leaders asked the board to restore the 10 percent cut in the Business Development Board’s budget. “I didn’t support it, even though I am pro-business. I would prefer to see that amount (about $100,000) go toward job creation.” But it passed anyway.
The commissioner did remind those in the audience that a proposed sales tax rate hike to cover a portion of the cost of county fire-rescue service has been eliminated.
Right now, it appears county taxpayers might face about a 9 percent increase in their tax rate with the $4.80 per $1,000 valuation that’s on the table. The final numbers won’t be decided upon until September for the $4 billion budget that goes into effect Oct. 1.
Speaking at the Federation of Boca Raton Homeowners Associations’ monthly meeting Aug. 3, Abrams – a former Boca Raton City Council member and mayor for seven years — discussed numerous challenges such as the 2010-11 $100 million budget shortfall and the process that includes eliminating and/or reducing the funding for numerous programs and services.
One challenge that seems to have dissipated is the danger of oil from the Gulf spill ruining the shoreline of Palm Beach County. “The fears of it getting into the loop current” have abated, he said. “We dodged that bullet.”
But that does leave the remainder of hurricane season to worry residents. Abrams noted that a Palm Beach County desk has been added to the Boca Raton Emergency Operations Center which will provide increased coordination and communication countywide in case of a hurricane or other emergency.
Some of news Abrams delivered was a bit grim. The county property tax appraiser, for example, predicts two more years of property value declines before things get better.
On the issue of branding Palm Beach County, he noted that the Tourism Development Council has brought someone in to help in this area.
But Abrams is still fuming about how Boca, Delray and Deerfield lost the Scripps project to Jupiter by former County Commissioner Addie Greene’s vote that broke a 3-3 tie. He said a campus similar to the Scripps facility in La Jolla, Calif., could have been created in and around Boca. To spread these out, as is being done in Jupiter, “is not as effective.”
In addition, the commissioner discussed ongoing economic initiatives to stimulate local job growth such as an expedited permitting process and incentives for new businesses. But he also noted that one large Boca-based firm, U.S. Foodservice, expanded its “huge distribution facility” without incentives. He said the company is the second largest food delivery firm in the nation.