Palm Beach County taxpayers shelled out a quarter of a million dollars to host President-elect Donald Trump over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.
Now, the county wants its money back.
County Administrator Verdenia Baker got permission from county commissioners Tuesday to write members of the county’s congressional delegation seeking federal reimbursement for expenses associated with sheriff’s deputies escorting Trump’s motorcade and standing guard outside of his Palm Beach mansion and with Fire-Rescue having a staffed vehicle at the ready in case of an emergency.
The U.S. Secret Service provides personal protection for American presidents and their family members. But local governments are frequently called on to block streets, escort the presidential motorcade and have emergency service vehicles on stand-by.
Over at least the next four years, the county can expect to be called on to provide such services many times, such as the next 10 days while Trump is back at Mar-a-Lago for the duration of the holiday season.
Baker said the county wants to make sure some structure is in place to reimburse the county for its costs.
The Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office incurred overtime costs of $248,000 for Trump’s five-day Thanksgiving visit, PBSO spokeswoman Teri Barbera said.
PBSO, which is tracking its Trump costs, does not have an estimate for how much it will pay to assist during the president-elect’s Christmas-time visit.
Blocked streets and motorcades were a staple of life in the county in the closing weeks of the presidential campaign, as candidates and their high-profile surrogates dropped in and out of the county.
The county has not sought reimbursement for security expenses related to those campaign stops.
“When that occurs, you just eat that cost,” Baker said.
But with Trump’s victory, things are different now, she said.
“He’s now president-elect,” Baker said. “He’s got his home here. He’s going to be here more.”
And it’s going to cost county taxpayers more, especially after Trump is sworn in next month.
The complexity and costs of security for a presidential visit is typically higher than it is for a president-elect, said Michelle Yu, spokeswoman for the Honolulu Police Department, which has provided security for President Obama during his trips to Hawaii during the course of his presidency.
How much might Palm Beach County taxpayers be looking at over the next four years to host Trump?
“It depends on the length of visits and the number of movements,” she said.
Yu said the Honolulu PD paid about $250,000 each year to assist with security during Obama’s trips there.
“That’s in overtime expenses only,” Yu said. “That doesn’t include staff that was on duty.”
Like Palm Beach County, Honolulu’s police department sought federal reimbursement. And when it receives its next penny of reimbursement, that’ll be its first penny of reimbursement.
“Unfortunately, we have not received any reimbursement,” Yu said.
Like Palm Beach County, New York City has a residence of the president-elect. And it also would like some federal reimbursement — for the cost of providing security for Trump, who has held a series of high-level meetings at Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue since his Nov. 8 election.
On December 5, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio wrote congressional leaders asking for reimbursement for providing security to Trump in an area stuffed with tourist attractions like high-end retail shops, St. Patrick’s Cathedral and Central Park.
“This is a highly-trafficked, dense urban environment, and one that presents an unprecedented and unique target for potential terrorist activity,” de Blasio wrote to congressional leaders. “No other president in modern history has had his primary residence located in such a densely-populated neighborhood.”
De Blasio’s letter did not specify an amount, though The New York Times has reported the mayor wants at least $35 million.The mayor’s letter cites a 1976 federal law prohibiting jurisdictions with populations larger than 7,000 from seeking reimbursement for presidential security costs, and limiting the amount that smaller jurisdictions can seek.
“Reimbursement under that statute is capped at $300,000 per year for residence protection and $70,000 per year for airport use — amounts that are drastically inadequate in this case,” de Blasio wrote of the limits.
He noted that Congress has appropriated funds to reimburse local agencies for security and other related costs directly associated with protecting a president-elect during the transition period.
“The cost of providing the appropriate level of security to the Trump family through the transition and beyond is, and will continue to be, substantial,” de Blasio wrote. “The NYPD cannot reduce the amount of protection or enforcement provided to city residents. As a result, the enhanced protection required in the area of Trump Tower, and throughout the city when the family travels, necessitates the expenditure of increased overtime.”
The same will be true for Palm Beach County. But, if Hawaii’s experience is a guide, the county shouldn’t be expecting much help from Washington, D.C.
Officials in Hawaii have chafed at the added costs of providing security to Obama, and he’s wildly popular there.
Obama won Hawaii, the state of his birth, with 72 percent of the vote in 2008 and 71 percent of the vote four years later. He won Honolulu County with 70 percent of the vote in 2008 and 69 percent in 2012.
Trump won Florida in November, but his margin wasn’t huge.
He clipped Democrat Hillary Clinton in the Sunshine State by a margin of 1.2 percent. And he was soundly beaten by Clinton in Palm Beach County by a margin of 16 percent.