Closures, layoffs possible to balance Boynton Beach budget

Commissioners also spend while trying to save $

BOYNTON BEACH, Fla. - Longtime Boynton Beach resident Herb Suss is tired of seeing his favorite city services disappear. He is keeping close tabs on what could be cut.

"Whatever this commission does affects my life, services like the library are closed once a week, morale is low," says Suss.
 
Over the last few years Boynton Beach has lost 1 out of every 5 employees to attrition and layoffs. That's why several city buildings are already closed certain days. The city is trying to climb out of a $5 million budget deficit.
 
But even a 4% property tax rate hike will not be enough to offset plunging home values. Next on the chopping block could be the jobs of four Boynton Beach firefighters.
 
"We've laid off several employees over the past few years and I hope not to go there this year," says Lori LaVerriere, the City Manager.
 
Pensions and health care costs are the largest growing expense for the city.  So employee benefits could change.
 
"The commission is looking at having employees contribute a portion of the health care expense," says LaVerriere.
 
Commissioners can't always agree on what to cut, but each one of them agreed on what to spend money on - beautifying gateways to the city.
 
Several medians and sidewalks are overgrown and un-welcoming. Commissioners are supposed to be cutting from the budget, but they want to spend $150,000 to improve the landscaping. 
 
"It's disheartening, it's a beautiful city and I'm passionate about it. This bothers me and my neighbors," says Suss.
 
"We're trying to attract new business and residents to our city and the best way to do that is to have people drive around and say I want to live here and do business here," says City Commissioner Steven Holzman.
 
Larger expenses like a new building for the police department is put on hold. The final budget will be ready in September.
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