Sherry Brown has been named the new director of Palm Beach County’s Office of Financial Management and Budget.
Brown had served as an assistant budget director under Liz Bloeser, who retired last week.
County Administrator Verdenia Baker said she selected Brown for the job after conducting an internal search. Baker praised Brown’s expertise in budgeting, debt management, strategic planning and labor contract negotiating. Brown has helped with planning for a proposed increase in the county’s sales tax.
Commissioners confirmed Brown’s promotion during today’s meeting.
As Palm Beach County commissioners sifted through challenges regarding the 2017 budget during a meeting at the Palm Beach County Convention Center Tuesday, Commissioner Paulette Burdick had an idea.
The county should look into tying insurance costs to the lifestyles of employees, Burdick suggested. Making healthier choices – say, quitting smoking or losing weight – could reduce an employee’s health care costs.
The county has a voluntary program like that now, and Burdick’s colleagues made it clear they didn’t want it to go beyond voluntary.
After several skeptical questions – Commissioner Steven Abrams wondered aloud if employees would be asked to provide blood for testing; Commissioner Shelley Vana asked how the county might learn about an employee’s binge drinking on the weekend – Burdick told county staff she still wants her colleagues to get information on how such an insurance program could work.
“It’s clear they don’t understand it, or I am not articulating it well enough,” Burdick said.
That comment didn’t sit well with her colleagues.
“I don’t want the information,” Abrams said, saying he’d oppose implementing such a program, which he described as overly intrusive.
Vana didn’t want the information, either.
“If I need more information on a topic, I will request it,” she said. “I don’t need another commissioner to request it for me.”
After an uncomfortable pause, County Mayor Mary Lou Berger stepped in: “Moving on to another topic…”
The Business Political Action Committee of Palm Beach County released a statement Thursday afternoon saying its Board of Trustees voted overwhelmingly to oppose the referendum because of the board scope of projects the extra tax would cover, particularly cultural ones.
“The county government has strayed too far from what it truly needs,” BIZPAC chairman John R. Smith said. “The belief of most BIZPAC Trustees is that the amount of money proposed to be collected, about $1.4 billion, is too large and the proposed expenditures list has too many ‘wants’ rather than ‘needs.’ There’s no need to increase the sales tax.”
Smith’s statement also said, “this is not the time for a regressive sales tax increase,” which is one that has a greater impact on the poor than the rich.
BIZPAC, along with another business group, the Economic Council, last year endorsed Assistant County Administrator Shannon LaRocque rather than Baker for the county government’s top job. The County Commission overwhelmingly chose Baker last summer.
Baker this year has spearheading an effort by the county, the Palm Beach County School District and the Cultural Council that would have county voters decide whether they want to increase the sales tax in the county from 6 percent to 7 percent.
The projected revenue of $2.7 billion over 10 years would be split among the county government, school district, municipal governments and cultural projects, although proposed ballot language released Wednesday doesn’t mention cultural projects. It does, however, say the tax increase would be to “create local jobs through economic development projects.”