Cultural groups pressing for money from possible sales tax increase

Officials from theaters, museums and other cultural institutions have renewed their press to get a cut of the possible $2.6 billion that would be raised over 10 years from an increase in Palm Beach County’s sales tax.

Pro-sales tax emails are again popping in the in boxes of Palm County commissioners, who, along with the county School Board members, are considering a one cent on the dollar increase in the sales tax to raise money for school equipment and upgrades to roads, bridges and buildings. A sales tax increase would have to be approved by voters through a referendum.

Arts and culture groups argue that directing some of the money to their organizations would allow them to grow and enhance the quality of life in the area.

The Palm Beach County League of Cities is considering the newest proposal today, which has the backing of the Cultural Council of Palm Beach County and Rick Asnani, who has overseen several successful ballot initiatives over the past dozen years.

Check with later today for more on this topic.

Cultural Council President Rena Blades
Cultural Council President Rena Blades

Attorney General opinion sought on fire rescue tax swap law

An attorney general’s opinion is being sought to clarify a key aspect of a 2009 law allowing governments to raise their sales tax to pay for fire rescue services while reducing property taxes used for that purpose.

The Professional Firefighters and Paramedics of Palm Beach County Local 2928 has pushed the tax swap, but county commissioners and County Attorney Denise Nieman have raised questions about how excess sales tax revenue could be used.

The law says sales tax revenue is to be used for fire rescue services and requires governments to cut property taxes by the same amount generated by the sales tax hike.

What’s not clear, commissioners say, is what happens if the sales tax hike raises more money than it costs to pay for fire rescue services. Commissioners fear they would have to cut property taxes – and the services they pay for – while excess sales tax money piles up, untouchable because fire rescue services are covered.

Union officials have said the law would allow governments to use the sales tax revenue. Commissioners aren’t so sure.

Nieman and a lawyer for the union met on Friday and could not come to agreement on the law. They did agree to seek an opinion from the attorney general.

“It is difficult to predict with any certainty when or even if the attorney general will issue an opinion,” Nieman wrote to commissioners.

The fire rescue sales tax would have to be approved by voters through a referendum, but commissioners would first have to agree to place it on the ballot.

Union officials say they want to go to voters in August. Commissioners are exploring the idea of having a separate sales tax increase on the ballot in November. That sales tax increase would raise money for roads, bridges, buildings and school equipment.

County Attorney Denise Nieman (center) speaks with County Commissioner Hal Valeche during a meeting of the Palm Beach County Board of County Commissioners Tuesday, January 27, 2015. Commissioners voted unanimously to ask Uber to stop operating in the county unless the company follows the current county law regulating taxis and limousines. (Bruce R. Bennett / The Palm Beach Post)
County Attorney Denise Nieman (center) (Bruce R. Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)



Images show massive scale of planned Westlake project near Acreage

Minto Communities Vice President John F. Carter said his firm’s giant development project on Seminole Pratt Whitney Road will create thousands of jobs in Palm Beach County and have an economic impact of $1 billion over the next two decades.

This layout shows the plans for the town center portion of Westlake, a Minto community. (All images provided by Minto)

The project, formerly known as Minto West and now to be called Westlake, has been the subject of intense debate about growth in the county.

Carter offered updates and details on the project during an Economic Forum luncheon Thursday at the Kravis Center.

Complete coverage of Carter’s presentation can be found here.

Plans for Westlake include commercial, residential and recreational areas.

13-0518_S3T WESTLAKE