Analysis Shows County Has Significant Opportunities for
Improvement in Management and Utilization of Reserves and Assets
TALLAHASSEE — The Florida TaxWatch Center for Local Government Studies today released a Special Report on Palm Beach County, Analysis of Unreserved Funds, Debt, and Property Utilization in Palm Beach County, revealing significant opportunities for improvement in the management and utilization of its reserves and assets.
The detailed analysis indicates that Palm Beach County continues to maintain high levels “unreserved funds”. When compared to similar counties in Florida, Palm Beach has consistently held its level of reserves far above any of its peer counties – Broward, Hillsborough, Miami-Dade, and Orange. Palm Beach County has consistently maintained “unreserved funds” at 50 percent or more of its total expenditures over the past six years, despite declines over the past two years.
In 2006, Florida TaxWatch conducted a study on the county, Palm Beach County Budget Study, which then revealed trends still seen in this updated study.
“There is no excuse for a county government to hoard excessive levels of reserves over time,” said Dominic M. Calabro, President and CEO of Florida TaxWatch. “This continued trend has resulted in an unreasonable shift of taxpayer dollars to government coffers with no apparent benefit to the public at a time when counties need to find ways to maximize all opportunities to fund core services without raising taxes on its residents.”
With assistance from the Palm Beach Civic Association* and the Taxpayer Action Board, the Florida TaxWatch Center for Local Government conducted an independent analysis of Palm Beach County’s unreserved funds; bond ratings and debt; inventory of county owned properties and utilization of county-owned buildings.
The analysis found that unreliable record-keeping and nomenclature are depriving Palm Beach County from a revenue windfall that has been lying dormant for too long. While the county owns hundreds of acres of land, the lack of official definitions to classify property it owns as either “vacant”, “improved”, or “surplus” has prevented the prompt identification of property available for sale. Further, the utilization of county office space can be improved by bringing its space standards – the amount of square footage allotted to specific county positions – in line with the state of Florida. Currently, the county allots much larger office spaces to County Commissioners than the state does for its Department Secretaries.
The report makes several recommendations for improving the means by which Palm Beach County administers its reserves, property, and related financial affairs.
*The study was funded in part by the Palm Beach Civic Association.