Commissioners, school board members to meet on sales tax

Palm Beach County commissioners and county school board members will hold a joint meeting today to discuss their plan to raise the 6-cent sales tax by a penny on the dollar.

Such an increase would generate $2.7 billion over 10 years to pay for repairs to roads, bridges, schools and county buildings.

The meeting is scheduled to be held from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. in the Center for Bachelor’s Programs building on Palm Beach State College’s Lake Worth campus.

Check with http://www.mypalmbeachpost.com later today for more coverage on this  issue.

Sales tax meeting to be held at Palm Beach State College

A joint sales tax meeting of the Palm Beach County Commission and the county School Board will be held Tuesday from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday at Palm Beach State College’s Lake Worth campus.

School board members requested the meeting on Wednesday, a day after county commissioners changed the plan to raise the county’s 6-cent sales tax by a penny on the dollar.

A combined $161 million of the $2.7 billion the tax would generate over 10 years was directed to cultural projects and economic development incentives. Commissioners, however, stripped out that funding, angering school board members.

A majority of commissioners had to agree to hold a joint meeting with school board members. County Mayor Mary Lou Berger and commissioners Priscilla Taylor, Shelley Vana, Melissa McKinlay and Paulette Burdick signed off on the meeting, which will be held in the Wattenbarger Conference Room of the college’s Center for Bachelor’s Programs building.

Mary Lou Berger
Mary Lou Berger

 

Valeche says he sees no need to meet with school board on sales tax

Editor’s note: A previous version of this post incorrectly reported that Commissioner Melissa McKinlay does not see a reason to meet with the School Board to discuss changes to the sales tax plan. She does support meeting with members of the School Board.

Palm Beach County Commissioner Hal Valeche blasted a request from the county School Board for a meeting next week to discuss changes to the plan to raise the county’s sales tax.

Palm Beach County Commissioner Hal Valeche at county budget workshop, March 25, 2015 (Staff photo/Eliot Kleinberg)
Palm Beach County Commissioner Hal Valeche at county budget workshop, March 25, 2015 (Staff photo/Eliot Kleinberg)

One day after commissioners stripped funding for cultural projects and economic development incentives from the plan, angry school board members demanded a meeting to discuss the plan.

But Valeche, who has long opposed raising the sales tax, said another meeting is unnecessary.

“I for one do not see the necessity of another endless meeting,” Valeche wrote in an email to his colleagues. “We’ve stated our position and it is as clear as can possibly be. I think the time for negotiations with the other parties is over.”

A majority of the seven-member commission is required to hold a special meeting.

Check with http://www.mypalmbeachpost.com later today for more on this story.

McKinlay urges school board to support new sales tax plan

Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay is urging county school board members to embrace the new sales tax plan she and her colleagues approved Tuesday.

The plan increases the amount of money schools, cities and the county would get from a penny on the dollar increase of the 6-cent sales tax. Because school board members had approved an earlier version of the sales tax plan – one that included a combined $161 million in set-asides for cultural projects and economic development incentives – they must take a new vote on the updated plan.

Two school board members, Debra Robinson and Frank Barbieri, attended the county commission meeting Tuesday and asked commissioners not to change the plan.

At McKinlay’s suggestion, however, commissioners voted to move forward with a new plan that does not include money for cultural projects or economic development incentives.

In a letter released after the vote, McKinlay pressed board members to back the new plan.

“It is my sincere hope that the Palm Beach County School District recognizes that the initiative approved by the County Commission (Tuesday) provides an estimated additional $54 million to our public schools to address their needs,” McKinlay wrote. “By partnering with us, it allows them to do additional capital projects like purchase much-needed school buses.”

The school board is expected to address the sales tax plan when it meets later today. Check with http://www.mypalmbeachpost.com for more coverage on this topic.

Commissioner Melissa McKinlay
Commissioner Melissa McKinlay

 

PBC votes for sales tax plan without money for cultural projects

Palm Beach County commissioners voted 5-2 Tuesday to move forward with a sales tax plan that does not include money for cultural projects or economic development incentives.

Because cities and the Palm Beach County School Board had voted for a previous plan – one where cultural projects and economic development incentives would get a combined $161 million of the $2.7 billion the tax would generate over 10 years – those entities will have to hold new votes.

Funding for cultural projects had drawn opposition from some county residents and commissioners who saw them as less essential than repairs to roads, bridges, schools and county buildings. Commissioner Melissa McKinlay suggested a plan that did not include cultural projects or economic incentives.

Commissioners Hal Valeche and Shelley Vana voted against the new plan.

Check with http://www.mypalmbeachpost.com later today for more on this story.

CPB Melissa McKinlay 0101

Commissioner Melissa McKinlay

Sales tax debate about to get underway at Weisman Governmental Center

Palm Beach County commissioners are about to begin debating a plan to raise the county’s 6-cent sales tax by a penny on the dollar.

If approved by commissioners and then by voters this fall, the sales tax increase would generate $2.7 billion over 10 years for repairs to roads, bridges, schools and county buildings. Cities, the county and the Palm Beach County School District would share in the proceeds.

Cultural institutions would be able to apply for $121 million for construction projects at their facilities, an aspect of the plan that has drawn opposition. County Administrator Verdenia Baker is expected to present the plan.

Check with http://www.mypalmbeachpost.com later today for additional coverage on this topic.

Verdenia Baker
Verdenia Baker

 

Belle Glade mayor supports cultural projects in sales tax plan

Belle Glade Mayor Steve Wilson urged Palm Beach County commissioners to use some of the money from a proposed sales tax increase to pay for cultural projects.

The County Commission is scheduled to hold a public hearing at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday on a plan to raise the 6-cent sales tax by a penny on the dollar. If the tax increase is approved by commissioners and by voters in November, it would generate $2.7 billion over 10 years for repairs to roads, bridges, school and county buildings.

Cultural institutions like museums, theaters and the zoo can apply to receive $121 million from sales tax money for their projects. Some commissioners, business officials and county residents oppose using sales tax money on cultural projects, arguing that all of the money should be used on county and school projects.

The Cultural Council of Palm Beach County had identified specific projects it recommended for funding, and those projects were initially included in the sales tax plan put together by County Administrator Verdenia Baker.

But after some raised questions about how the council came up with its recommendations, Baker changed her plan, requiring all cultural institutions to compete for sales tax money in a process run by the county.

In a letter written on April 18 and forwarded to commissioners Friday by Cultural Council President Rena Blades, Wilson said he backs using sales tax money on cultural projects.

“While we definitely need additional funding for infrastructure, we also need help in bringing tourism to Palm Beach County, and particularly to western Palm Beach County,” Wilson wrote. “I want to see cultural arts opportunities become more readily available to youth throughout the county, including children and young adults in the Glades region.”

Tuesday’s public hearing will be held on the sixth floor of the Weisman Governmental Center at 301 N. Olive Avenue in West Palm Beach.

(Bill Ingram /The Palm Beach Post): Steve B. Wilson, mayor of Belle Glade
(Bill Ingram /The Palm Beach Post): Steve B. Wilson, mayor of Belle Glade

No friend of Baker’s, BIZPAC opposes sales tax vote

A pro-business political group that last year endorsed Verdenia Baker’s chief in-house competitor for county administrator announced it’s opposed to Baker’s first major push as administrator — putting a proposed sales tax increase on the November ballot.

Verdenia Baker
Verdenia Baker

The Business Political Action Committee of Palm Beach County released a statement Thursday afternoon saying its Board of Trustees voted overwhelmingly to oppose the referendum because of the board scope of projects the extra tax would cover, particularly cultural ones.

“The county government has strayed too far from what it truly needs,” BIZPAC chairman John R. Smith said. “The belief of most BIZPAC Trustees is that the amount of money proposed to be collected, about $1.4 billion, is too large and the proposed expenditures list has too many ‘wants’ rather than ‘needs.’ There’s no need to increase the sales tax.”

Smith’s statement also said, “this is not the time for a regressive sales tax increase,” which is one that has a greater impact on the poor than the rich.

BIZPAC, along with another business group, the Economic Council, last year endorsed Assistant County Administrator Shannon LaRocque rather than Baker for the county government’s top job. The County Commission overwhelmingly chose Baker last summer.

Baker this year has spearheading an effort by the county, the Palm Beach County School District and the Cultural Council that would have county voters decide whether they want to increase the sales tax in the county from 6 percent to 7 percent.

The projected revenue of $2.7 billion over 10 years would be split among the county government, school district, municipal governments and cultural projects, although proposed ballot language released Wednesday doesn’t mention cultural projects. It does, however, say the tax increase would be to “create local jobs through economic development projects.”

Baker to address black concerns about sales tax plan

Palm Beach County Administrator Verdenia Baker is scheduled to address concerns some black business owners and residents have about the plan to raise the 6-cent sales tax by a penny on the dollar.

Baker will discuss the county’s plans at 6 p.m. today at Gray’s Temple CME Church at 523 18th St. in West Palm Beach.

The sales tax increase would raise $2.7 billion over 10 years for upgrades to roads, bridges, schools and county buildings. Cities, the county, the Palm Beach County School District and arts projects backed by the Cultural Council of Palm Beach County would share the proceeds.

Some black business owners have asked Baker how they can make sure their firms get an opportunity to bid for some of the work that will be undertaken if the sales tax is approved by voters.

UNIFY, a black community group, says today’s town hall is the first of eight that will be held throughout the county on the sales tax plan.

“These town halls will give an opportunity to the county, school district, the municipalities and Cultural Council to earn the votes of the black community in favor of this referendum,” the group said in a statement announcing the town hall with Baker. “Pervasive segregation and discrimination have long prevented many minorities from achieving equal access to economic opportunities. The case is not different for Palm Beach County. While there have been some efforts to provide a more inclusive environment for (minority- and women-owned businesses), the focus is still far from where it needs to be.”

Verdenia Baker
Verdenia Baker

Baker tells commissioners cities are backing sales tax plan

Palm Beach County Administrator Verdenia Baker told county commissioners that cities are approving a plan to raise the 6-cent sales tax by a penny on the dollar to raise money for roads, bridges, schools and county buildings.

The sales tax increase would generate $2.7 billion over the next decade. Cities are entitled to some of that money. Because the Palm Beach County School District will also get some of that money, elected officials representing a majority of city residents were required to approve the split.

Baker said Tuesday that elected officials representing about 60 percent of city residents have approved the plan, which will be on the county’s May 3 meeting agenda.

If commissioners vote to move forward at the May 3 meeting, a second meeting will be held on May 17. Approval at that meeting means the plan will be placed on the ballot in November.

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