Class of 2017 learn about Palm Beach County and its best of everything during Civics and Government Day

Leadership Palm Beach County
September 20, 2016



Civics and Government Day –

Leaders proactive approach to issues facing Palm Beach County

By: Jason Davis; Photos by Trevor Rosecrans


  1. What was the most important issue/debate discussed during the Session Day? What is the best way to solve or address the issue?


It’s no secret that Palm Beach County is one of the largest counties in terms of population and land mass in Florida, with a uniquely diversified economy.  Palm Beach County is known the world over as a hot spot tourist destination, offers some of the finest agricultural land in the country, has an international airport, and an ocean port for trade.  The Library system and Parks Department are heavily decorated in the state because of their public appeal and services offered.  From this perspective, Palm Beach County really is the Best of Everything.


However, from the perspective of dollars for public education, county leaders fear the worst. Getting straight to the point, as stated by Mike Burke, “Schools are struggling financially.” Economic downturn from the recession that hit Florida in the early 2000’s, forced the school board to place several capital expenditures in abeyance. Examples of need include structures requiring repair and vehicles exceeding service time causing increased spending on buses that should be retired. This is clearly problematic for the eleventh largest public school system in the nation, with 185 schools.

Mike Burke, Keith James, and Todd Bonlarron (l-r) discuss the penny surtax


Enter Palm Beach County leaders. There is a plan of attack as it relates to budget shortfall in the school system; the one-penny sales surtax. If voters approve, the tax will help schools fund facility, technology, security, and vehicle projects, with 50% of tax revenues directly benefitting the School District.


Leaders have seemingly thought of everything to gain trust in the proposed surtax. An independent review committee will oversee spending and projects, concerns of other counties taking business from Palm Beach are mitigated by the fact that surrounding counties are


proposing similar or higher taxing initiatives, and there is a cap to the tax so public can rest assured that once the cap is hit, the tax will fade away.  There is a proverbial long road to hoe for this project to come to fruition, but leaders in Palm Beach County are putting forth their best efforts in strategic planning and long-term viability for Palm Beach County education.


  1. What was the 2nd most important issue/debate discussed during the Session Day? What is the best way to solve or address the issue?


unspecified.jpg Charles Frazier presents transit ideas to eager listeners.

A subjective question with a subjective response; several topics were discussed in roundtable sessions. Representatives from city, county, and quasi-governmental agencies met in small groups to review issues and take questions from the collective. Partnerships seemed to be a common theme in the pursuit of success.  For example, the City of Lake Worth and the Village of Palm Springs frequently share information with one another. Another example included Palm Tran partnering with Citizens for Improved

Transit to provide better services and decrease carbon footprint in the County.  With the City of West Palm Beach growing at an exponential rate, as suggested by the Director of WPB Development, Rick Greene, collaborations and forward thinking will be necessities for local leaders in the coming years.


  1. What can the broader leadership community do to solve/address these issues?

Lots of ideas and lots of success stories support Senator Sachs’ position, “We have the talent and the tech to succeed.” The final panel for the day suggested Palm Beach County has everything it needs to succeed in the form of leadership. Some final words of wisdom as it relates to hassle or reward in service to the County; leaders can make a difference, you have to be in the room to be an impact, and there is no hassle, only opportunity. In short, persistence, creativity, and desire from local leaders make our County the cornerstone of success in Florida.

2unspecified.jpg Cory Strolla and Josh Hirsch listen to Judge Alvarez discuss the rewards of public service.