The Palm Coast City Council Thursday evening approved a budget that will increase the city’s policing contract with the Flagler County Sheriff by an unprecedented 42 percent, or $1.7 million, adding 10 deputies to the city’s ranks.
That was the easy part. The council had a more difficult path to a property tax rate all five council members could agree to, though in the end the disagreements were smoothed out enough from just two days ago as two council members–Victor Barbosa and Nick Klufas–agreed to meet in what Barbosa called a “happy medium.” It was an unlikely alliance, but an effective one that Mayor David Alfin joined. He’d been straining for weeks to bring council members together, at least long enough to ensure that the budget and the tax rate passed.
It did, 3-2, with Council members Ed Danko and Eddie Branquinho in opposition, for diametrically opposed reasons: Danko wanted to bring the tax rate to roll-back–the rate at which the city would realize no more revenue next year than it did this year. Branquinho wanted to keep the tax rate where it’s been for the last three years.
The council voted to approve a property tax rate of $4.61 per $1,000 in taxable value, the first decrease in four years from the current rate of $4.6989 per $1,000. For a homesteaded house valued at $175,000, it means a Palm Coast tax bill of $576, as opposed to $587–a saving of $11 for the year, though it still amounts to a tax increase under Florida law: as long as the city generates more revenue than it did the previous year, it’s a tax increase. The city calculates the increase at over 3 percent.
The savings for non-homesteaded properties are higher, but not by much: the Publix on Belle Terre Parkway,$480 for example, will have a Palm Coast tax bill of $24,911 with the approved rate, as opposed to $25,391 under the current rate, a saving of $480. The average Publix store had revenues of $29.7 million in 2019, according to company figures.
The council was out of time today. It had no choice but to approve a new rate and a budget. The 11th-hour delay was so perilous that Helena Alves, the finance director, had to ask for a recess during tonight’s hearing to run the agreed-upon numbers, once a consensus was apparent, so she could prepare documents with updated numbers for the council to vote on.
“I am not a political poker player, and in the post 9/11 world I will not gamble our risk, or our citizens’ public safety,” Alfin said. “Fire and police remain my top priorities because they protect our quality of life. All other expenses that define our quality of life must first support public safety. And then we can work to reduce taxes and government expense.”
The budget calls for raising spending on Palm Coast’s policing, through the sheriff’s contract, from the $4 million adopted a year ago to $5.7 million, while the fire department will see its budget increase from $10 million to $11 million, a 10.4 percent increase.
Alfin started the meeting with an admonition to his fellow-council members: “I will not recognize, and I will interrupt, conversations between unrecognized council members.” The admonition was a consequence of last Tuesday’s meeting, when Danko and Klufas, then Danko and Branquinho, brawled verbally–and rudely, on Danko’s part. “Avoid generalities and offer specific additions and changes to budget line items,” Alfin continued this evening. “We’ve reached our deadline and we must approve a budget this evening.”
Tuesday’s special workshop meeting had been intended to resolve differences between council members that other local governments resolved weeks ago. The panel agreed to grant the Sheriff’s Office all 10 deputies he was requesting. But the council members did not agree on a property tax rate. Danko pressed for rollback, Barbosa and Alfin were looking for an undefined reduction in the rate, and Klufas and Branquinho wanted to hold the line for a fourth straight year. It was a recipe for stalemate. Somebody had to give. So Klufas did, once it became apparent that the reduction in the tax rate would limit the raiding of the reserves to $530,000.
Klufas’s issues were two-fold. “I’m a little bit disappointed that we didn’t look at a phased approach,” he said of adding all 10 deputies at once. Initially, the city budget had calculated the addition of six deputies, until Alfin pushed for all 10 two weeks ago. “I was a little taken aback that we went from six to 10 without even looking at phasing them,” KLufas said. He also wondered how the Sheriff’s Office would manage to hire all 10 in the city and 10 or more additional deputies the county is paying for. But Chief Mark Strobridge, Staly’s second in command and the chief budget negotiator, reassured the council that recruiting has been ongoing: the deputies themselves would be phased in as they are trained.
“Touching the reserve fund, it’s the easy way to govern,” Branquinho said. “It’s the one that doesn’t require much intelligence on our side.” Branquinho spoke of a friend on the Elizabeth City, N.J. council telling him of the unexpected costs incurred by Hurricane Ida, and that Palm Coast should be prepared to weather such costs. But Alfin said he was ready to apply the brakes on the city’s reserves, which exceeded the maximum required by a few percentage points, relative to the size of the general fund budget.
Danko, continuing his crusade against the planned expansion of the tennis center, again tried to defund it. Alfin convinced him to defer that conversation, and further discussion pointed out that the most that the tennis center plan has drawn from the general fund–as opposed to impact fees and Town Center’s Community Redevelopment Agency budgets, which are not tied to the general fund–was $289,000, some of it already spent. Indecorous as always, Danko spilled his campaign slogan about how he’d “rather drink anti-freeze than vote for this budget” as he voted No.
He did so after injecting more political trappings into the debate, taunting Alfin about his campaign pledge not to raise taxes: “I have the commercial. I have the mailer. I realize you’re trying to compromise here. I really think you need to stick to your guns right out of the gate,” Danko lectured. Alfin thanked him for his comments.
Few people spoke, one of them, an occasional gadfly, rather ramblingly about the city’s investments (Alves patiently explained the city’s investment method and practices), and another about a golf club he owns, saying the city’s golf club competes against him, and the city’s pickleball plans are misguided. Another resident spoke against raising taxes at all, but also cautioned the city against dipping into its reserves or the hiring of all 10 deputies.
Disgusting , there are no other words, GET THE POLICE OUT OF OUR POCKETS so much money wasted on crappy cops , we could have such a safe nice city if it wasn’t for them, imagine the side walks and streetlights and cross ways and speed bumps and rec centers and more we could use that money for instead of self serving police
No street lights
So, you want to do away with Police. I hope you remember that when you have a life threating emergency and no one is there to help. Sounds a whole lot like you are highly influenced by left wingers.
Thank God for an astronomically higher number of informed elected officials and citizens who actually use their brains for something more than an ear separator who support keeping our community a wonderful and safe place to live and work by giving our sheriff the resources needed to do the very important work that our county sheriff’s deputies do! As both the county and city population grows, if we did not respond appropriately to funding requests that allow our local law enforcement to respond to the added workload, we would only make our communities more prone to crime and the multitude of negative consequences that come with that. If that is the type of community you wish to live in, I suggest you move to downtown Daytona Beach in one of their higher crime areas where you will feel more comfortable… that is until YOU yourself becomes a victim of crime. Then let’s all hear you scream for more protection. Maybe you could just ask around for one of the local burglars, drug dealers or thieves to see if they are for hire to “protect” your home and belongings, and see how that works out for you. Good luck!
AMAZING: The City Council was given information how to help the Sheriff’s Department by reducing the number of patrols in residential neighborhoods. Traffic Calming Methods are used in multiples cities in Florida. These Traffic Calming Methods, one such method “Soft Speed Humps” are used to reduce speeding and volume through residential neighborhoods, thus reduce the need of patrols. As development continues so does the increase in traffic and speeding and a need for increased patrols. Palm Coast Traffic Engineers find the traffic increases hard to manage (have you experienced Palm Coast Parkway lately); again other cities have turned to Traffic Calming Methods to Protect Residential Neighborhoods to stop parkway traffic from finding its way through residential neighborhoods. Why does Palm Coast City Council avoid the success of other cities that use Traffic Calming Methods? But more concerning why the City Council avoids the need to Protect Residential Neighborhoods from speeding and excessive cut through traffic? The Sheriff Department will ticket speeders, but has no authority to control excessive cut through traffic in residential neighborhoods. We need a City Council that will be proactive for Protecting Residential Neighborhoods from increased traffic issues that harm neighborhoods. https://www.myboca.us/817/Traffic-Calming
You know what else soft speed humps reduces? Emergency response times.
You might not need to many extra cops if you could chase them out of the Cracker Barrel parking lot? That seems to be a hit spot fir gathering for police cars.
Charlie Ericksen Jr says
Perhaps you should consider, the shift leader gets together, to discuss important items, they cannot communicate over the vehicle phones, for fear of someone intercepting the message.. It’s private policing business. It’s not a coffee meeting.. IT”S BUSINESS
Charlie, so you want us to think that the cops are at Cracker Barrell to discuss business because of lack of privacy on the vehicle phone? It would seem to me if they were inside the restaurant or even standing together outside and talking as a group, the chances of a customer or passerby hearing the conversation would be far greater and who knows what some who overhears something wouldn’t repeat. Just a thought
I eat at Cracker Barrel often and I for one LOVE to see the occasional sheriff’s patrol car parked in the restaurant’s expansive and shaded parking lot, where the deputy is VISABLE and probably taking advantage of a nearby shady spot to write up a crime report on his in-car computer. You may be surprised to know that all of the patrol cars now have this wonderful technology that allows deputies to remain out in the community to electronically write their reports and remain available for calls, instead of having to go back to the station and sit inside to do their reports like the good ole days when I was in law enforcement. Or maybe the deputy had been inside the restaurant on his code-7 (meal break)? Would you like to be the one to tell our deputies you are offended by them taking a well deserved meal break from the heat of the day, maybe after being out in the hot sun handling a serious traffic accident on one of our streets that resulted in injuries or a death? How insensitive to suggest that the deputy is not still available for calls and doing their job just because they happen to be parked in the parking lot of a restaurant!
I totally agree with the residents posting here…all these millions for law enforcement and we hardly see our patrols in the streets and all while Staly says crime is down. Sheriff refuses to enforce No Truck Roads city ordinance by ticketing the truck driver violators, does refuse to enforce No Littering out of the car window etc. and properly enforce speeders in land and water and noise of open mufflers specially Friday Saturday and Sunday out of the bars and eateries…and in the saltwater canals…Meanwhile our roads crumble and our storm water drainage and swales flood with a passing storm and water seats on them for day contributing to Mosquito breeding. Look at the Sept 7 meeting the line of residents complaining about the speeders in residential roads from the start. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dxotUpCaR38&t=213s
Is there not some formula that determines the number of officers needed for a certain size population with a certain crime rate?
Johnny D. Anonymous says
This is a sad decision for a variety of reasons. The FSCO was appointed 10 deputies from the county after requesting 15. Even the county was smart enough to negotiate. The Sherriff currently has a surplus of funds that he is struggling to spend by the end of the FY. With that, why did the City give exactly what they asked for? Why would they not say, once you hire the first 10, then we can discuss the additional deputies. To fund the FCSO who is already funded by our tax dollars, with additional tax dollars is an example of the Sherriff double dipping. If he doesn’t hire, are we going to see a refund? NO. Maybe he will use the money for his new boat when he can’t hire all of them. Additionally, every line on your proposed tax bill has gone up. Why does the city, that receives a very small portion of the tax bill, feel so determined to save people 10-15 dollars? Not a major impact for the services that the resident have now come to expect. A small price to pay if you ask me. OH WELL, to late now. Maybe Danko can put on a uniform and help the City since he is so adamant about cutting operations. I digress.
Ed D Sux says
I enjoyed reading your post. I chuckled when you mentioned Danko putting on a uniform to help the city. That little man wouldn’t be a help to anyone. He has manure for brains.
So why do these commissioners keep catering to the police? Geesh a 42% increase? Staly spends money needlessly on fancy painted cars, etc. What has that got to do with handling crime and other things? NOTHING. He spends a lot of money satisfying his own wants and fantasies. The commissioners either can’t, or don’t want, to stand up to him and eventually gives him what he wants. I guess when a person with power could be favorable to commissioners and others, the favor gets returned.
I agree 100 percent
Leonard Barcuss says
With all the illegals from the border coming into Florida and now Afghanistans making this place their new home, I can only imagine the crime that is about to invade our little city. We gone to need an ARMY of Police to handle what’s coming. Or perhaps the National Guard on the streets.
Palm Coast is 80% white. The chances of any sort of “invasion” here is so small it’s not even a thought to most people. However that will not prevent racism from guiding some. Personally I would love to see some more diversity here so I can raise my child knowing she will be introduced to many different cultures like I was.
Mike Cocchiola says
We all want to feel safe, but this is ridiculous – 10 new deputies for Palm Coast? Over $1 million per year? All based not on actual proven need but on statistics that Staly uses to demand more and more tax dollars to supposedly keep up with other cities that have nothing to do with Palm Coast.
Do you know that Palm Coast must dip into emergency reserve funds by something like $1.2 million in 2022 to pay off Staly? What about the following year and the year after that and so on and so on as recurring costs for these new deputies grow and grow. Who’s going to pay for that? You! Meantime, if an emergency hits us, who makes up the depleted reserve funds to pay for it? You!
Staly’s budget increase is a solution looking for a problem. This is wrong on so many levels.
The county and city keep wasting money on the S.O. while the Health Department employees are in a mold infested building that has so many safety violations it’s unbelievable!
Trump/Covid 2020 says
As you know, and many people tell me. Sheriff Staly is the greatest sheriff in the history of sheriff’s. Not just in Flagler but the world. He knows great words and has given us more victories than any sheriff ever. I’ll be hugely disappointed if the new operations center doesn’t have a bronze statue of the greatest sheriff ever in front of it.
Unfortunately, many in the public don’t have the ability to read him or they just ignore his self promoting practices which he does off the backs of the deputies who do all the work he takes credit for. I laugh when I see a story of an incident and prople comment “great job Sheriff” as if he is single handedly handling all the crime in the county. Those comments fall very short of where they should be going…to those who actually do the work..and not the ego driven social media King.
J. Mullinax says
WOW, what a great group of complainers. Do any of you actually know what your talking about? I don’t think so. Maybe you all should educate yourself about what the police actually do for our community. The call load is ever increasing and extra deputies mean you might get the help you need when you need it.
Minor drug busts and petty theft do not require 100 additional cops. It will lead to parked cop cars on belle terre and 5 cars responding to a traffic incident instead of 3 that we see now.
As a matter of fact I do know. And, asking for a budget increase to hire more deputies while making just recently making numerous quiet promotions (did you read about it? I didn’t) should be something we all question.
How many were just promoted to “Master Deputy” prior to this meeting? I believe at least 15 with an increase in salary equal to Corporal’s pay. There never was a “Master Deputy” rank at FCSO. Asking for more money and 10 new deputies and making such promotions does not go hand in hand.