PALM BEACH, Fla. — Palm Beach County officials, facing the prospect of paying millions of dollars in overtime costs associated with protecting President Donald Trump during his frequent visits to the tiny Florida enclave, want either the federal government or Trump himself to foot the bill.
Protecting Trump while he is at Mar-a-Lago, his private club in Palm Beach, primarily falls on the Secret Service. But when the President visits Florida, the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office is asked to assist in a variety of public and private ways. With Trump making his fifth trip as president to what he calls the “Winter White House,” the costs are rising.
According to estimates provided to CNN by the sheriff’s department, it costs about $60,000 in overtime every day Trump spends in Florida. Trump has spent, before this weekend, 14 days in Florida since taking office in January, meaning costs to the sheriff’s department likely topped $1 million during this weekend’s visit.
Though the number is minimal when considering how much it costs the Secret Service to protect Trump, it is a sizable — and unbudgeted — amount for the county.
Local officials, who are starting to grapple with the idea that they might foot the bill, say if the county has to pay for it, it will mean either tax hikes or cuts to services in the coming years.
“It means the local taxpayers will have to bear the added burden of being part of the security for the president of the United States,” Paulette Burdick, the Democratic mayor of Palm Beach County, told CNN Friday. “It will either be cuts or increase in taxes.”
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Dave Kerner, a Palm Beach County commissioner, says the proposed county budget for 2018 currently has a $40 million deficit, meaning the prospect of paying a few million dollars more to protect Trump could force political leaders into making hard choices on programs to offer.
“I know that my taxpayers shouldn’t have to bear the burden,” Kerner said Friday.
One option being explored to pay for Trump’s protection is to force Mar-a-Lago to pay for the county’s services through its yearly tax bill.
The plan, which has been proposed by Kerner, would assess a certain amount each year against the club, requiring it to pay for the protection. While Kerner is skeptical that the plan would work (as are other commissioners) or that Mar-a-Lago would pay the assessment, he said the idea was worth exploring.
“Frankly, as long as it is not on my constituents, I don’t care who pays it,” Kerner said, adding that while he is “honored” to have the President visit, he needs to look out for his constituents first.
Trump has been told that there is a desire within Palm Beach County that the taxpayers not pick up the bill for his protection.
Sheriff Ric Bradshaw met with the President in February, where he discussed the need to get paid back for the cost of protecting him.
“I want to thank the President for taking time to listen to local Law enforcement’s concerns and his commitment to an ongoing dialogue, which ensures the opportunity to address other issues, such as reimbursement for presidential visits,” Bradshaw said after the meeting.
Trump regularly hassled his predecessor, President Barack Obama, for traveling to Hawaii. Trump tweeted: “President @BarackObama’s vacation is costing taxpayers millions of dollars——Unbelievable!”
Due to variations in each trip Trump takes, it is difficult to estimate the exact amount each Trump trip is costing the federal government. But a 2016 Government Accountability Office report about a four-day trip Obama took to Florida in 2013 found the total cost to the Secret Service and Coast Guard was $3.6 million.
That figure was also conservative: It did not include classified Defense Department costs or the salaries of anyone involved in the trip, according to the Government Accountability Office.
The cost to protect Trump in Palm Beach is dramatically less than what it takes for around-the-clock protection in New York, where officials say it costs New York City more than $1 million a day.
“This is a very substantial undertaking. It will take substantial resources,” New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat, said in November. “We will begin the conversation with the federal government shortly on reimbursement for the NYPD for some of the costs that we are incurring.”
Those conversations have been ongoing. De Blasio asked Congress for $35 million to cover costs associated with protecting Trump in December.
With the weather cold in New York, though, Trump has spent considerably more time in Florida than his northern home. And residents around Palm Beach have been told to expect Trump to visit Mar-a-Lago every weekend until May.
Burdick, the mayor, asked members of Florida’s congressional delegation for help getting reimbursed for Trump’s protection, arguing that the costs of Trump’s visits are putting pressure on the county.
“Palm Beach County will continue to be a location frequented often by President-elect Donald J. Trump as his home is located on the south end of the town of Palm Beach,” Burdick wrote, arguing the county has “assumed unbudgeted expenditures arising from the security detail of President-elect Trump.”
Burdick said Friday that they have yet to hear back, but that they “are not giving up.”
“We are hoping that the federal government will review the request,” she said. “It is unprecedented that a sitting president would take regular weekend vacations to his Florida home, or any home, and it is very expensive for our local taxpayers.”
Kerner said the letter and other attempts to get the federal government to pay the bill have failed to spark action.
“We have, obviously, federal colleagues, our members of Congress. They have not indicated that it is forthcoming,” Kerner said when asked whether they got a response to the requests. “There has been no indication that aid is forthcoming.”