In the main courtroom of the historic 1916 Palm Beach County Courthouse, whose first tenant a century ago was Palm Beach County’s “tax assessor,” that post’s ninth incarnation was sworn in Tuesday.
With a big smile, and with her family looking on from the old jury box, new Palm Beach County Property Appraiser — that’s the title now — Dorothy Jacks took the oath of office from a woman whose children she’d baby-sat as a 13-year-old in Palm Beach Gardens: retired Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Mary Lupo.
“I would be lying if I didn’t say that was very emotional,” said Jacks, whose voice then faltered with emotion as she said, “there is really nothing better in life than a dream come true.”
Sharon Bock, Palm Beach County’s clerk and comptroller, has said her office will designate a special account so money from the recently approved increase in the sales tax can be closely monitored.
“A dedicated staff person will be assigned to monitor the receipts coming in, as well as audit any expenditures from this new fund,” Bock said in a statement released Friday.
She added: “Rest assured that my office will examine and account for every penny that is allocated and spent.”
Voters approved a 10-year increase in the sales tax from 6 cents on the dollar to 7 cents on the dollar. The increase is expected to generate $2.7 billion, with the School District of Palm Beach County getting half of that money, the county getting 30 percent of it and cities getting the remaining 20 percent.
County commissioners and staff have said they’ll use the county’s portion – estimated to be about $810 million – to repair parks, roads, bridges and buildings.
In approving the sales tax plan, commissioners also supported the establishment of citizen oversight committees to make sure the money is spent as originally planned. But Bock said she’ll be watching as well.
“As the official ‘watchdog’ of all county funds, I am constitutionally tasked to provide the necessary ‘checks and balances’ on the county’s budget, revenue and spending,” she said.
Bock’s office does have the power to refuse to release funds if she determines that the spending does not serve a public purpose.
“I know your tax dollars are in good hands,” she said. “We are here to protect and preserve public funds with integrity and accountability.”
Palm Beach County Clerk of Court Sharon Bock is scheduled today to give county commissioners her annual financial report. Bock’s office won’t give any advance details of what Bock will say. Last year she told the panel that selling the Mecca Farms property at a $33 million loss, and locking into $50 million in new debt over the Max Planck Institute and the Palm Beach County Convention Center, contributed to the county’s assets dropping by $99.1 million in the previous year.
Also today, commissioners will hear about three projects for which the county is dangling incentives for them to come in: Project Falcon: $80,000 for an unnamed firm that plans to invest $3 million to build out an existing building and create 200 new jobs over five years. Local economic impact: $652 million.Last week, Palm Beach Gardens’ city council voted to offer the company $80,000. Project P2P:$251,400 for an unnamed firm that plans to spend $15 million to build a new 210,000-square-foot corporate headquarters and create 838 jobs. Local economic impact: $339.3 million. KRS Global Biotechnology:now revealed as what had been Project Darwin, the Boca Raton-based pharmaceutical firm will get $160,000. It plans to spend at least $28 million and create 160 new full time jobs.
The commission’s proposed $3.63 million 2016-2017 budget – which the board preliminary approved at its meeting Monday — includes $531,383 in paychecks for Executive Director Kristina Henson and the CJC’s eight other staffers.
Of that, $241,970 comes from the Crime Prevention Trust Fund, a fund criminal defendants pay into as part of their penalties.
Krischer, who’s the commission’s treasurer, said that “for us to be taking crime prevention dollars and spending them on salaries is unacceptable.” He said this is happening “as we have seen these grant dollars shrinking, and shrinking, and shrinking.”
Krischer said after the meeting he’s been lobbying for the special taxing district for close to two decades.
Deputy County Administrator Jon Van Arnam, sitting in at Monday’s meeting, told members the county is just now starting to assemble its 2016-2017 budget but noted that a combination of county taxes, grants and trust fund dollars will fully pay for next year’s drug court and criminal re-entry programs.
“You may not be totally pleased, but I think the budget picture is a little brighter than you portrayed it,” Van Arnam said.
“So,” commission Chair Lee Waring said, “our message to Jon and commissioners is, ’Thank you for your efforts, and keep it going, because we do need the help.”
Also Monday, the CJC voted to recommend Kevin Jones, assistant pastor at Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church in West Palm Beach, as its clergy representative. County commissioners make the pick.
Bock: The commission will hear Clerk of Courts Sharon Bock’s annual financial report. Last year, Bock reported that county assets dropped $99.1 million, mostly because the county sold the Mecca Farms property at a $33 million loss and locked into $50 million in new debt over the Max Planck Institute and the Palm Beach County Convention Center.
Housing: Approved its required Local Housing Assistance Plan for the next three years, as required by the State Housing Initiatives Partnership (SHIP). The plan’s goals are to preserve and increase the stock of affordable housing.
Bus vs. House: Is set to approve a $51,593 settlement for a West Palm Beach man whose home was damaged in March 2013 when it was struck by a Palm Tran bus.
APRIL 20 UPDATE: The deadline to register is extended to April 29.
Got a warrant hanging over your head? Come on down.
Operation Fresh Start, the annual 1-day event for people to clear outstanding nonviolent misdemeanor or criminal traffic warrants in Palm Beach County, is set for 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, April 30.
The event’s at the Palm Beach County Criminal Justice Complex, 3228 Gun Club Road, West Palm Beach, and at the South County Courthouse, 200 W. Atlantic Avenue, Delray Beach.
More than 25,000 people have outstanding warrants, most of them for failure to appear in court; Palm Beach County Clerk & Comptroller Sharon Bock said in a release; “resolving these warrants allows citizens to clear their record as well as improve efficiencies in our justice system.”
People charged with violent crimes and felonies are not eligible.
Elected constitutional officers such as Clerk Sharon Bock and Sheriff Ric Bradshaw aren’t subject to the scrutiny of the Palm Beach County Commission on Ethics in their roles as members of the Palm Beach County Criminal Justice Commission, because they don’t come under the jurisdiction of the ethics panel at all, its executive director says.
Bradshaw also has said attending opens his constitutionally independent office to the scrutiny of the county Inspector General and the ethics commission.
Bradshaw and Bock are among 11 members of the panel who hold county or state posts, plus four federal representatives, who are not subject at all to the ethics commission, executive director Mark Bannon wrote justice commission’s new executive director Kristina Henson.
of which is expected to be approved without discussion in the panel’s “consent agenda.”
“Those persons who are required by ordinance to be a member of an advisory board of commission,” Bannon wrote, “do not meet the Code’s definition of an official” for the ethic’s commission’s purposes. He said that’s because they’re not appointed by the county commission.
Bannon said two members of law enforcement associations plus the head of the county’s Legislative Delegation might already be subject to the ethics panel by virtue of their regular jobs.
A Palm Beach Post analysis published Dec. 7 found that six members of the Criminal Justice Commission, including County Clerk Sharon Bock and Sheriff Rick Bradshaw, have missed about 87 percent of the meetings since 2007.