By Michele Dargan, Special to the Civic Association -- In her State-of-the-Town address, Mayor Gail Coniglio spoke about shoring up the pension deficit, improving facilities and infrastructure, dealing with traffic issues and protecting the beaches.
“To put it bluntly, we will preserve, protect, and prosper,” she said. “Our long-term financial forecast is both positive and optimistic.”
Mayor Coniglio delivered her speech Monday morning during the Palm Beach Civic Association’s Annual Meeting at the Henry Morrison Flagler Museum with more than 350 people in attendance.
Civic Association Chairman and CEO Bob Wright described the mayor as being “highly respected in Palm Beach and beyond its borders. She works hard to build productive relationships with elected officials, staff and others in the county, state, and federal government.”
The mayor thanked the Civic Association for its work.
“Pressing for answers, educating the residents and contributing to solutions. Thank you for your steadfast support. It’s welcomed and appreciated by the Town Council team,” Mayor Coniglio said.
The mayor congratulated Palm Beach Publix Manager Andy DeLong, Palm Beach Police Officers Ryan Burgoon and Anthony DeJesse, winners of the Civic Association’s Raymond J. Kunkel Awards, and The Royal Poinciana Plaza, winner of the Town Beautification Award.
April 17 marked the 107th anniversary of the town.
“This town could not have reached this advance age without standing steady, firm and prudent in everything we do,” she said. “Its dignity and grace must never change. Like every one of us, our health is vital and can sometimes be taken for granted. From the strength of our roads, bridges, infrastructure, beaches and, of course, the depth of our municipal finances, we must not be complacent to question, explore, and be proactive … We will be leaner. We will be stronger.”
Civic Association Video [11:54]
Pensions and Budget Issues
“Pension contributions toward the total unfunded liability have been committed on the order of $5.4 million satisfying Town Council’s requirements to reduce the risk over the next 10 years. Even though the $5.4 million commitment created a shortfall of over $4.2 million, the Town Council requested a Comprehensive Review of Town Operations (CROTO) to address a portion of the shortfall through budget modifications. Town staff was able to find $2.8 million from the review and an additional savings from reduced town pension contributions and identifying opportunities to both increase revenue and streamline operations, reducing the shortfall to about $900,000. The robust rise in our property values has dramatically increased the associative tax base and has prompted improvements to Planning and Zoning revenues that can help offset the shortfall.”
“We must remember that our employees are paramount towards the continued success of our community. These talented, motivated, and goal-oriented employees are multitasking and accomplishing more with less. An upcoming Wage and Compensation Study, to review the surrounding marketplace, will ensure that the employment packages offered by the town will attract and retain the best and the brightest individuals.
“Safety and security successes in Palm Beach are proven by the lowest crime rate in our town’s history. Intensive training and equipment advances are all confirmed by resident accolades across each and every department. There is no better example of our community’s dedicated work force than the herculean efforts town wide to eliminate the remnants of Hurricane Irma.”
Improvements to Town Docks
“We’re charging forward with a solid resolve to renovate and modernize our town docks. This facility provides a unique benefit to our residents and has the potential to be a substantial revenue generator. Improvements to the docks will maximize the value of this town asset and fortify the bottom line.”
Recreation Center and Bradley Park
“The town is moving forward with a new, state-of-the-art recreation center, upgrading the tennis facility, multipurpose field, and playground, to improve the well-being of both the young and young at heart.
“Enjoy the beauty and serenity of the reborn Bradley Park. These improvements give our residents and visitors opportunities to make new friends and lasting memories that can only be found in our own Palm Beach.”
“The undergrounding project is on schedule and the town continues to explore opportunities for cost savings. The pursuit of Florida Power & Light tariff credits and intense negotiations with telecommunication providers to reduce and slim down the total budget remains our highest priority.”
“For the second year in a row, our town was impacted by a hurricane. The town is taking measures to receive as much federal financial funding as possible to restore our beaches devastated by the storm. The town is aggressively seeking federal involvement in our beaches to increase shared funding and improve our ranking for state cost sharing. This is being pursued with vigor and determination with regular visits to Tallahassee, Jacksonville, and Washington, D.C. We are deeply grateful to our congressional legislators and our partners at the Army Corps of Engineers for their critical advocacy to achieve this new victory.
“There have been, and will continue to be, active projects to strengthen important storm protection. The current example is the project being performed at the Mid-Town beaches to install a new groin at the hotspot near Gulfstream Road. This structure will help control erosion and provide additional stability to the roadway to protect the seawall along South Ocean Boulevard.
“In January, at no cost to this town, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers completed a maintenance dredging project at the Palm Beach Inlet providing $8 million of dry sand placement from the inlet south. This expanded footprint put sand on beaches that have never received this valuable resource.”
“We continue to work closer with our neighbors in West Palm Beach to address mounting traffic concerns due to their development intensification. Implementation of a regional approach to improve traffic circulation, ensuring safe travel on and off the island can only be achieved with strategies identified with a partnership with the City of West Palm Beach, Palm Beach County, and the Florida Department of Transportation. We are actively pursuing an expansion of the traffic management system. This will enable us, commencing with County Road, to relieve the traffic stacking in Palm Beach and clear the east-west gridlock.”
The mayor recognized former Public Safety Director and new Town Manager Kirk Blouin.
“He will get us in shape,” she said. “We are strong and will only get stronger.”