Paying Palm Beach County property taxes in installments? First bill goes out Wednesday

TaxCollectorLogoIf you’re one of the 25,234 Palm Beach County property owners who have signed up to pay your annual property taxes in quarterly installments, you first bill will go in the mail Wednesday, the Tax Collector’s office said today.

Quarterly payments are due in June, September, December and March. You must pay the first one by June 30th or you’re booted from the program. Enrollees can pay online at http://www.pbctax.com . “eCheck” payments are free. Convenience fees are applied to credit and debit card transactions.

Enrollees get a discount of just under 4 percent. Any property owner with estimated taxes of more than $100 qualifies and had to have enrolled by April 30.

 

Federal judge tosses most of taxi firms’ suit against Palm Beach County over Uber rules

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)
Rosenberg (Post/Lannis Waters)
Rosenberg (Post/Lannis Waters)

Taxi and limousine drivers who’ve already lost once in their class-action suit against Palm Beach County have been dealt another, nearly fatal blow.

The outfits had sued in federal court in May 2015, arguing the county gave special treatment to the app-based ride service Uber.

Fort Pierce-based U.S. District Judge Robin L. Rosenberg had thrown out the suit in February, but had permitted the firms to file an amended complaint.

This week, she tossed the third of three counts, and part of the second count, agreeing with the county’s argument that the suit was been made moot when county commissioners, on April 19, set rules for Uber and Lyft and similar app-based ride operations that those firms have said guarantee they will operate safely.

Taxi and limo firms have said the rules give the app-based ride services an unfair advantage and don’t go far enough to protect the public.

Rosenberg wrote Wednesday that the firms may continue to pursue damages for the year and a half that the county had a temporary operating agreement with San Francisco-based Uber parent Rasier LLC. The judge also suggested to county lawyers that they convert their motion to dismiss the remaining claims, instead filing a motion for summary judgment.

Read The Post’s complete Uber coverage

 

Lake Worth residents crying over Wawa

Some Lake Worth residents are pleading with Palm Beach County commissioners not to approve a land use change that would allow a 24-hour Wawa gas station to be built at the intersection of Hypoluxo Road and High Ridge Road.

Residents were successful three years ago in blocking a plan to put a gas station in their neighborhood. They are now emailing commissioners, telling they them to vote no-no on Wawa.

Many are sending a form email telling commissioners: “The neighborhood has been there since before I-95, and the High Ridge Road area is unique in character and should be protected!  It is already heavily congested and more traffic will lead to even more accidents, injuries, and fatalities.”

Commissioners aren’t expected to consider the Wawa proposal until August.

Residents opposed to a proposed gas station on a lot at High Ridge and Hypoluxo hold signs expressing their opposition Monday, April 11, 2016. (Bruce R. Bennett / The Palm Beach Post)
Residents opposed to a proposed gas station on a lot at High Ridge and Hypoluxo hold signs expressing their opposition Monday, April 11, 2016. (Bruce R. Bennett / The Palm Beach Post)

Palm Beach County Property Appraiser: property values up 7.85 percent

PAO_LogoJPGGettyImages-50904212 (1) (1) (1)Total property values in Palm Beach County are estimated to have risen 7.85 percent from 2015 to 2016, the county property appraiser said Friday.

That number is higher than the initial estimate, issued in late April, of a 6.6 percent increase. And the new estimate places the county at $164.5 billion, near its all-time high, reached in 2007 at the height of the boom.

The property appraiser’s April 29 estimate was that countywide taxable value grew from $152.6 billion on the first day of 2015 to $162.6 billion on the first day of 2016.

It hit a historic high of $169.5 billion in 2007 before falling to a 10-year low of $124.4 billion three years later as a result of the 2008 housing market crash and recession.

Taxable property value is based on real and tangible property values as of Jan. 1 each year. The county, its municipalities and other taxing authorities use estimates to project how much money they can expect to receive from property taxes in the coming year and to set their tax rates and budgets.

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Palm Tran shakeup following consultant’s report on manipulation of Connection stats

The head of Palm Tran has demoted the Palm Tran Connection’s director, who admitted to investigators that his agency manipulated software to boost on-time stats, and has accepted the resignation of the man who once ran all of Palm Tran.

(Lannis Waters/The Palm Beach Post)
(Lannis Waters/The Palm Beach Post)

Clinton Forbes’ announcement about Director Ron Jones and former director Chuck Cohen is one of several changes he outlined in a memo that accompanied a 20-page report by a consultant he hired following a blistering March 31 report by the Palm Beach County Office of Inspector General.

» RELATED: Palm Tran safety policy a pain for motorized-bike commuter

(Richard Graulich/Post)
(Richard Graulich/Post)

The 103-page March 31 report outlined a systematic doctoring of software. It says managers altered, or directed dispatchers to alter, between 21,000 and 46,000 reports.

Carey
Carey

Forbes wrote in a memo to county leadership, released along with the report late Thursday, that while “some of the conclusions varied” from the Inspector General, it was “complementary to their investigation and uncovered several management issues which resulted in significant problems” at the Connection, which provides call-ahead bus service for the elderly, disabled and ill.

Forbes said he’ll hire a consultant to run the Connection as interim, work on the recommendations of both reports, and help search for a new director.

He also said he’s created an office of Performance Management at Palm Tran “to ensure the integrity and accuracy” of the agency’s data. He also said he’s brought the Connection’s operations directly under Palm Tran and has created a new Chief Operating Officer position from the former Deputy Director of Fixed Route, the post to which Cohen was demoted.

Cohen
Cohen

Poor on-time performance cost Cohen, Palm Tran executive director for nearly a decade, a demotion in January 2014, and later led to a major overhaul of Palm Tran Connection, which for years, has struggled with complaints about late service, rude drivers and unclean buses.

Jones
Jones

To learn more, go later to my palmbeachpost.com.

Read memo and full consultant’s report here

FROM THE BEGINNING: Click to read The Post’s complete coverage of Palm Tran Connection’s problems.

Martin woman still missing; sensational 1955 Palm Beach County murders led to conviction without bodies

Todd
Todd
Judge Curtis Eugene Chillingworth and his wife, Marjorie Croude McKinley Chillingworth.
Judge Curtis Eugene Chillingworth and his wife, Marjorie Croude McKinley Chillingworth. (Post archives)

Where’s Tricia Todd?

Authorities in Martin County will be back out today searching for the body of the 30-year-old hospice nurse, whose ex-husband has confessed to killing her but so far won’t say where he put her, beyond indicating a wooded area somewhere around Hobe Sound. Sheriff’s deputies already have searched the area for nearly a month without result.

Can a person still be convicted of a murder without a body?

That legal issue came into play in Palm Beach County in what still is regarded the county’s crime of the century: the assassination of Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Curtis Eugene Chillingworth and his wife Marjorie.

According to a 2006 “Post Time” local history column:

Former municipal judge Joseph Peel, was convicted, mostly on the testimony of one of the two hit men, of ordering the murder. The Chillingworths were seized from their oceanfront Manalapan cottage on June 15, 1955, taken by boat out to sea, bound, and tossed overboard. Their bodies never were found. Florida State University criminal justice professor Dale Nute, who rubbed elbows with some of the Chillingworth investigators at the forerunner to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, said he believed it was in fact the first murder conviction obtained in Florida without a body.

“1000 Friends of Florida” appeals rejection of attempt to block Minto West/Westlake

080914-Minto-West-1The group fighting to overturn approval of the sprawling development now called Westlake said Wednesday it’s appealing last month’s ruling to dismiss its case.

“”We believe this ruling is inconsistent with numerous comprehensive plan policies regarding development and road design in and around rural communities,” 1000 Friends of Florida attorney Robert Hartsell said in a statement.

After the county approved the project, formerly known as Minto West, environmentalists, preservationists and residents of The Acreage sued, arguing that the project violated state laws against sprawl and that the county had ignored its own comprehensive plan.

Last year, an administrative law judge ruled that the county did not violate state laws against sprawl in approving pro-Minto changes to the county’s comprehensive plan. After the state Department of Economic Opportunity affirmed that ruling, the only legal challenge remaining was whether the county ignored its comprehensive plan in approving the project.

Acting Palm Beach County Circuit Court Judge Edward Garrison ruled April 26 that the county did not do so.

The ruling was the latest setback for environmentalists and preservationists, who argue Westlake and other large development projects will lead to sprawl and damage the environment.

Meanwhile, Minto, using a state law passed in 2012, is backing efforts to have the project area incorporated as the county’s 39th city.

 

PBC officially asks AG for advice on fire rescue sales tax

Palm Beach County Attorney Denise Nieman has asked Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi for advice on how money from a fire rescue sales tax increase could be used.

Plans for a fire rescue sales tax hike were scrapped earlier this year when county commissioners raised questions about the state law that allows counties to raise the sales tax and decrease property taxes by the  same amount. Commissioners would have to agree to put the sales tax increase on the ballot.

Some fire rescue officials had backed such a tax “swap” as a way to reduce reliance upon property taxes and get tourists to pay a share of fire rescue costs. But commissioners – contemplating a separate sales tax increase to pay for repairs to roads, bridges and buildings – balked at the prospect of having two sales tax increases on the ballot, especially with questions about how the fire rescue tax swap works.

Supporters of the fire rescue tax swap stood down, agreeing to hold off on their plans while clarity was sought from Bondi’s office.

Nieman sent a letter to the attorney general on Monday asking a series of questions about the state law that allows fire rescue tax swaps.

The law was passed in 2009, but no county has tried to implement a fire rescue tax swap.

There is no specific timetable for a response from Bondi’s office.

Palm Beach County Attorney Denise Nieman (supplied)
Palm Beach County Attorney Denise Nieman

Palm Beach County Magistrate spares life of pit bull that bit Jupiter Farms man

Hurley01
Hurley in 2013
Ash
Ash

Hurley will live.

At a special “aggressive dog” hearing Wednesday morning, a magistrate refused to ratify Palm Beach County Animal Care and Control’s classification of the 4-year-old mail pit bull as “vicious,” which would have meant the death penalty.

Hurley had bit disabled veteran Lee Ash May 6 at Jupiter Farms Park, causing wounds to Ash’s scalp and forehead that required numerous stitches and staples.

Ash said Hurley but him after he took a football linebacker’s stance and knocked the dog down as it charged him and his 5-year-old Schnauzer, Prancer.

On Wednesday, Magistrate Earl Mallory said owner Ken Zaino was at fault when he let the dog off the leash for what Zaino said was “two seconds.” He said the county was at fault for not declaring the dog “dangerous” in 2013 after it bit two people less than six months apart. And Mallory said that while he’d have done the same things as Ash, Ash was at fault. He said it technically was Ash who attacked the dog, not the other way around.

Mallory instead instituted the “dangerous” classification, which will require the Zainos to, among other things, buy a special tag, post special signs, and muzzle the dog outside their property.

To read more, go later to mypalmbeachpost.com.

Jacks, Vana make their pitch to be PBC property appraiser

Seated side-by-side during a political forum Tuesday night, Shelley Vana and Dorothy Jacks made their pitch to be Palm Beach County’s next property appraiser.

Palm Beach County Commissioner Shelley Vana (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)
Palm Beach County Commissioner Shelley Vana (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

Vana, a county commissioner and former state legislator, and Jacks, the chief deputy property appraiser, clashed on what they would bring to the office.

Jacks said she understands the technical nuances of the job. Vana said the office is a political one that is best led by someone who has served in elected office.

The candidates, both Democrats, are seeking to succeed Gary Nikolits, who is retiring after 24 years as property appraiser. The primary election will be held on August 30.

With about 70 people looking on at the South County Civic Center, Vana and Jacks returned to that theme of leadership again and again.

“It is a very technical job,” Jacks said, adding that, in her, “you will have an expert at the top. You won’t have a politician but an expert leading the staff.”

Earlier, during her introductory remarks, Vana had laid out her credentials.

“You have two very good candidates here,” she said. “One has been an employee and one has been in leadership. In this office, you need a solid leader who sets the tone. You’re electing a Lee Iococca, not someone who screws in the screws.”

Jacks took that jab in stride. Indeed, much of the forum, sponsored by the Democratic Club of Boca Raton and Delray Beach, focused on technical aspects of the office.

The candidates were asked about the prospect of raising the county’s sales tax to pay for upgrades to roads, bridges, schools and county buildings.

Dorothy Jacks, chief deputy property appraiser
Dorothy Jacks, chief deputy property appraiser

Vana, who has supported the county’s plan to raise the sales tax, said she favors a mix of taxes. Jacks said she would first want to study how the county is spending money it already has before determining whether a sales tax increase is a good idea.

The candidates emphasized their endorsements. Vana noted that she is backed by state Reps. Dave Kerner and Irv Slossberg and a slew of other elected officials. Jacks said 18 property appraisers across the state have endorsed her, as have two of Vana’s colleagues on the county commission, Priscilla Taylor and Paulette Burdick.

While the candidates sparred on what they would bring to the office, each said they won’t be attacking each other on more personal terms, a point highlighted as the forum was ended when Jacks offer Vana a sip from her water bottle.

“Dorothy just shared her water with me,” Vana said. “And I wasn’t afraid to drink it.”