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West Palm Beach considers cutting librarians, parks staff

Community activist says he doesn't want to see those jobs go away
Posted at 8:41 AM, Aug 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-24 09:47:43-04

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Nearly 50 jobs could be on the line as the city of West Palm Beach works to finalize its fiscal budget.

At the last City Commission meeting Aug. 10, a proposal was made that would eliminate several personnel positions.

"We're looking at 12.5 library staff that are full-time, then getting rid of the on-call positions for the library," Chief Financial Officer Mark Parks said. "And for the parks and recreation, we are looking at 36.25 positions that will be eliminated."

After the proposal was made, there was blow back from commissioners.

"It just seems like we're taking a really big hit in a condensed area rather than looking at spreading that out and maybe just having one or two in multiple departments," Commissioner Christina Lambert said.

Community activists met Sunday at Currie Park to discuss the budget plan and inform area citizens of the proposal and how to make their voices heard.

"The employees, one, are citizens of our city that can't afford to lose what little they have," David Rae, founder of The Time Is Now Florida, said.

Rae said the city is cutting positions in order to obtain funding to hire more police officers and that safety is the city's No. 1 concern.

"You need to do what you need to do, but you don't need to touch the parks and rec and library," Rae said. "If anything, we need to pour more money into them since we're going into a virtual COVID world."

David Rae, founder of The Time is Now Florida
"You need to do what you need to do, but you don't need to touch the parks and rec and library," David Rae, founder of The Time is Now Florida, says.

City Administrator Faye Johnson said that spreading out the personnel cuts would mean a 15% reduction for all departments, excluding police and fire.

"So if we were to do that here and to cut out police and fire, it would be about a 15% reduction across the board for the general fund operations," Johnson said.

Rae said he doesn't want to see librarian and parks jobs go away.

"Violence is a public health concern, not so much a safety concern," Rae said. "So when we start looking at that in a different way, I think putting money, financial resources, into programs that are already existing that prevent crime should be the focus."

The meeting to discuss the proposed budget will begin Monday at 5 p.m.

Commissioners will hold their first meeting to adopt the budget Sept. 10.