In the main courtroom of the historic 1916 Palm Beach County Courthouse, whose first tenant a century ago was Palm Beach County’s “tax assessor,” that post’s ninth incarnation was sworn in Tuesday.
With a big smile, and with her family looking on from the old jury box, new Palm Beach County Property Appraiser — that’s the title now — Dorothy Jacks took the oath of office from a woman whose children she’d baby-sat as a 13-year-old in Palm Beach Gardens: retired Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Mary Lupo.
“I would be lying if I didn’t say that was very emotional,” said Jacks, whose voice then faltered with emotion as she said, “there is really nothing better in life than a dream come true.”
Dorothy Jacks, longtime chief deputy to Nikolits, is set to be sworn in Tuesday at the 1916 Palm Beach County Courthouse.
Nikolits was elected to the post in 1992 and reelected five times since. He announced in May 2015 that he would not seek a sixth term. Jacks, who’d worked in the office for 28 years and been chief deputy since 2012, filed to succeed him.
As of the Sept. 16, deadline, the appraiser’s office said, 4,266 parcels petitioned to the county’s Value Adjustment Board. That’s 0.6 percent of the 635,000 parcels and 58,750 tangible personal property accounts.
In 2015, owners of 5,197 properties submitted appeals; of those, the board granted 259.
The board can agree to accept petitions after the deadline, under certain circumstances.
For more, call the property appraiser at 561-355-3230 or the VAB at 561-355-6289.
Palm Beach County Commissioner Shelley Vana, soundly beaten in her race to be the county’s next property appraiser, said she’s frustrated but OK after the defeat to Dorothy Jacks.
“I’m OK,” she said after the loss. “I’ve won races, and I’ve lost races before. I’m happy with the way I ran my race.”
Vana did express frustration with news coverage of the race, which she said failed to point out the support Jacks got from the Republican Party of Palm Beach County.
The party announced on its web site that it supported Jacks, who had been a registered Republican as recently as 2010. A direct mail piece sent out to voters also attempted to link Vana, a long-time Democrat, to the Republican Party’s controversial presidential nominee, Donald Trump.
The property appraiser’s race was a non-partisan race, and Vana touted her long-standing ties to the Democratic Party.
That wasn’t enough, however. Vana, who had served in the state House of Representatives before winning a seat on the county commission, lamented what she described as not enough support from her party in the race.
“I want to thank all of the people who did support me,” Vana said.
A direct mail piece doesn’t just rip Palm Beach County property appraiser candidate Shelley Vana for attending what it described as a Donald Trump rally. It doesn’t just say she took gobs of money from developers and then voted for more growth.
The mail piece also says Vana, a county commissioner, voted for “the largest tax increase in Palm Beach County history.”
That vote, taken in May, was to have voters decide whether the county’s sales tax should be raised from 6 cents on the dollar to 7 cents on the dollar. That increase would generate an estimated $2.7 billion over 10 years for repairs to roads, bridges, schools and county buildings.
Vana does back that sales tax increase. Her opponent in the property appraiser’s race, Dorothy Jacks, would not say if she supports the proposed sales tax increase, which will be on the ballot in November.
“I do not think it is proper for me to advocate for or against an issue which does not directly impact the duties and responsibilities of the Property Appraiser’s office,” Jacks said when asked about the sales tax plan in candidate survey from The Palm Beach Post. ” I am glad the voters get a chance to make a decision on this in November.”
Jacks isn’t taking a position on the sales tax proposal, but Rick Asnani, the man behind the anti-Vana flier, was squarely behind the proposal earlier this year.
Working with the Cultural Council of Palm Beach County, Asnani made presentations and pushed hard in favor of what the anti-Vana flier describes as “the largest tax increase in Palm Beach County history.”
When the commission voted not to use sales tax money to pay for projects backed by the Cultural Council, Asnani’s role in the sales tax push diminished.
“This is the fourth year in a row the market has improved,” Property Appraiser Gary Nikolits said in a release.
The figures inch the county closer to its historic high of $169.5 billion, set in 2007, before the recession sent it plummeting to a 10-year low of $124.4 billion three years later. Since 2012, the market value of real property in the county has jumped 46 percent, Wednesday’s release said.
Values are set as of Jan. 1 and give cities and other taxing entities guidance as they assemble their budgets, and potential tax rates, for approval at the end of September.
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.
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.
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.”
The Palm Beach County Property Appraiser’s Office will award $1,000 each in scholarship money Thursday afternoon to five college-bound students from the count. Since 1994, the office has awarded $125,000, raising the money through its “Friday Casual Dress Day.”
An applicant must be graduating from a public, private or home school in Palm Beach County and be a county resident, and must have a grade point average of at least 3.0 GPA and be set to attend an accredited college or junior college in the fall. This year, 115 people applied.