Commissioners vote to raise property tax, cut construction projects

PALM BEACH COUNTY, FL (WFLX) - A recent decision by Palm Beach County commissioners to cut nearly $6 million from road programs has construction companies and workers worried about job security.

Tuesday night, the board voted 4-3 to raise property taxes and cut construction projects to make up for a budget shortfall.

The Palm Beach County engineer says $1.5 billion has been spent in the last 25 years to improve roads across the county, and those projects have kept travelers safe and people employed.

But now the county has had to make a decision that could change that.

The intersection of Old Dixie Highway and Hidden Valley Road is busy with construction workers hard at work putting in turning lanes.

Joe Rosso has been in the construction business for seven years and says annual cuts to road programs have forced them to do more with less. "Savings accounts are depleted; guys are working seven days to make ends meet. Everybody's wages have been cut," said Rosso.

"It's much harder. We're down to two crews. We had four crews going before," said construction worker Matt Donnell.

Rosso says Tuesday night's decision was upsetting. "I was outraged. Every time we need budget money, we always go to road construction," he said.

Palm Beach County engineer George Webb when the economy slowed down over the last three years, the traffic counts dropped.

"We don't have the growth, so for the stand-point of keeping up, there's nothing to keep up with," said Webb."

"I think it's ridiculous. If you pump money into these roads not only do you end up with nice looking roads, but you put people directly to work," said Rosso.

Palm Beach County's unemployment rate currently stands at 11 percent -- the highest it's ever been. And it could be worse in the coming years.

"These projects will dry up for us, so people I have managing those projects will no longer be necessary in their job," said Russo. "These roads are gonna start falling apart, and in a few more years whenever they do, hundreds and millions will have to be pumped into them."

And that's the message commissioner Paulette Burdick said he tried to send during Tuesday night's meeting.

"Everything we need is jobs, jobs, jobs. We will be eliminating about $6 million that we would provide to private sectors to create jobs in Palm Beach County," she said.

Rosso says they are down about 50 percent of what they were almost five years ago.

Webb says there is no word on when layoffs could come. It will depend on the revenue that is brought in over the next year.

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