PBC Commissioner’s Corner
By: Robert S Weinroth
I am honored to have been selected by my fellow commissioners as the county mayor at the annual reorganization meeting in early November. As the mayor, I will preside over commission meetings and serves as the ceremonial head of county government for the next year.
Our county is experiencing a historic economic recovery! As of September 2021, the county’s unemployment rate was reported at 4.1 percent, below the national and state averages. There are more jobs than applicants.
Palm Beach County was recently identified as the #1 county in the state for growth. This past year, over 31 companies have relocated or expanded in the county creating over 3,000 high salary jobs and $150 million in capital investment.
South County remains a top growth area with incentives provided for business expansions including ESports Play LLC and MPLT Healthcare LLC, with a projected economic impact of $98 million. Another new project includes NewDay USA, one of the nation’s leading mortgage lenders, which is set to create 600 new jobs.
Palm Beach International Airport (PBI) reports capacity (#flight/seats) is near normal levels and is recovering faster than the national average. Leisure travel is has rebounded recovering faster than business travel which positively impacts businesses such as hotels, restaurant and retail.
Keeping our roads and bridges in good repair and filling potholes remains a priority. To date, approximately $40 million has been invested with the penny sales tax on infrastructure, including the resurfacing of 1,000 lane miles and replacement or rehabilitation of 27 bridges.
Over the next few years, over $17.9 million will be spent on major road projects in District 4 including resurfacing,intersection and road safety improvements. Expect to see road crews on South County roads including Federal Hwy, Yamato, Palmetto Park Roads, Military Trail and Linton Blvd.
Additionally, in response to the boom in the construction industry, the Building Division developed an online permit submittal system, expediting the process for the industry which successfully generated over $2.5 billion in improvements for 2021. Daily, the division averages between 1,000 to 1,100 inspections and issues between 300 and 400 permits.
Housing and Homelessness
Meeting the housing needs of our workforce is a top priority, especially in response to the increased costs of housing. To date, 2,574 workforce housing units have been acquired. Of the 2,574 units, 60 percent are rentals, 13 percent are for-sale units and 14 percent will be met through in-lieu fees.
As of September 2021, there are 273 for-sale units and 1,000 rental units completed or under construction throughout the county.
In addition, the county continues to collaborate with local agencies to address homelessness providing services such as interim housing, rapid re-housing and job training. The BCC has also approved $8 million in funding for a second mid-county Homeless Resource Center.
For the past 11 years, the BCC has not increased the property tax rate and saving taxpayer’s money remains a priority for me. With the approved $5.9 billion budget for 2022, priorities will include housing, economic development, hunger relief and public safety.
Additionally, the BCC recently set the funding allocations for the $290 million in federal American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds with a focus on water and sewer, broadband and cybersecurity, infrastructure and affordable/workforce housing.
In 2021, the Board of County Commissioners invested over $39 million from the CARES Act funds to support our local food system including farmers, pantries and food banks. Allocations for 2022 addressing food shortages is approximately $10 million (federal ARP funds). The county also supports the comprehensive Hunger Relief Plan, which outlines our strategy to provide a hunger safety net for our most vulnerable residents, including seniors and individuals experiencing homelessness.
Substance Abuse/Mental Health
Substance abuse and mental health remain a priority with over $15 million allocated for programs in 2022. Some initiatives include a diversion program which provides treatment and support services to participants and allows them to a swiftly return to the community.
Other programs include supportive housing services to adults with severe mental health disorders and outpatient services to children and families. Another example is the ParksRx program which offers over 540 in-person activities/programs addressing substance use and mental wellness.
As a transportation advocate and chair of the Transportation Planning Agency (TPA), one of our primary concerns is keeping our roads safe for all users. In response to an uptick of pedestrian and bicyclist deaths, the TPA has implementing a number of programs including unified planning, performance and safety measures including pathways, signage, bicycle lanes and more.
Additionally, I am working to install additional electric vehicle chargers in more county facilities, including the courthouses, Governmental Center and the Palm Beach County Convention Center.
Agriculture is remains one of the county’s leading industries generating over $1.4 billion a year in agricultural sales. PBC leads the nation in the production of sugar cane and sweet corn. It also leads the state in the production of sweet peppers, lettuce, specialty leaf, rice, radishes, cucumbers, eggplants and sod.