By Tim O’Meilia
South Palm Beach music lovers will no longer have a choice of two nights to watch their favorite performers, as the town’s cultural committee decided to cut the traditional back-to-back performances to a single night for each artist in its winter music series.
The committee also will concentrate on local talent for both the music and lecture series to cut travel expenses and help put the cultural program in the black.
“Tickets for the music series have been down, so we decided to go to one night instead of two,” said Jeff Stein, co-chair with his wife, Ruth, of the town-sponsored cultural series held in the Town Hall council chambers.
“Perhaps this will get the demand up and we can go back to two nights,” Ruth Stein told the Town Council at the July 26 meeting.
The Steins are adding a musical comedy act and a doo-wop band playing oldies from the ’50s through the ’70s to the five-artist program. Pianist Robert Sharon and his chorale will return, as will soprano Reyna Cargill.
“We tried to think outside of the box and hopefully get a little more interest in the program,” she said.
The lecture series will continue its two-night per speaker format but concentrate less on world affairs. This year’s six-speaker program includes a one-person Eleanor Roosevelt play as well as talks on the upcoming presidential campaign.
The cultural series was calculated to lose $7,000 this year after factoring in honoraria, travel expenses and ticket sales in a $44,900 budget. The proposed 2012 ledger forecasts a $1,000 profit on a $19,500 budget.
The savings would help reduce the 2012 budget proposed by Town Manager Rex Taylor by 9.3 percent to $1.7 million.
Council members voted unanimously to hold the tax rate at the same level as this year: $4.32 for each $1,000 of taxable property value. But because property values have dropped again, a typical condominium owner will be paying less in town taxes.
The owner of a $100,000 home with a $50,000 homestead exemption would pay about $215 in town taxes. The rate does not include fire-rescue, school, Palm Beach County or other property taxes.
For the fourth year in a row, town employees will not receive raises. In fact, the town’s bottom line will benefit by more than $63,000 as a result of the Florida Legislature’s decision to require public employees to pay 3 percent of their salaries toward their pensions. Previously, the town paid for 100 percent of the pension contribution.
The budget was reduced another $22,000 because the maintenance employee works part-time only.
The town anticipates spending $15,000 more in legal fees for negotiations with the police union, the Police Benevolent Association. The town and the newly formed police bargaining unit have had two meetings but no contract has been proposed yet.
If no changes are made in September, the town will dip into its $2.4 million in reserves for $58,000 to balance the budget. This year the town anticipated spending $175,000 in reserves.
In other business, the Town Council:
• Set public hearings for the budget for Sept. 6 and Sept. 20 at 6:45 p.m., with adoption of the budget and final tax rate on Sept. 20.
• Changed the council meeting dates in November and December to Nov. 15 and Dec. 19, a Monday.