Palm Beach County’s staff will present its proposed budget for fiscal year 2017 during a meeting scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. today at the Weisman Governmental Center.
Staff is recommending that property tax rates be held steady, but, because property values are rising, taxpayers would pay a combined $56.8 million more in taxes in 2017 than they are paying this year.
County Administrator Verdenia Baker has said the county needs the additional revenue generated by rising property taxes to continue providing expected levels of service to county residents.
The city of Boca Raton officially opposes the proposed increase in Palm Beach County’s sales tax.
In a letter from Boca Raton Mayor Susan Haynie to County Mayor Mary Lou Berger, the city laid out its many objections to the tax increase, which would generate an estimated $2.7 billion for upgrades to roads, bridges, schools and county buildings.
The tax is regressive, the city noted, meaning those at the lower end of the income scale will pay a higher portion of their income on the sales tax than will people who are better off financially.
There are other problems with the sales tax, too, Haynie wrote.
Cities, the county and the school district would all share the tax proceeds, but Haynie said Boca’s cut wouldn’t be big enough “given the size of the amount of business conducted within its boundaries, in relation to the amount that is estimated to be generated b the City of Boca Raton’s businesses and residents.”
Haynie added that: “A sales tax increase will adversely impact businesses and merchants in the city of Boca Raton because consumers may choose to avoid the sales tax by shopping in neighboring Broward County. The City believes that the potential impact to businesses and residents within the City far outweigh the benefits received by its citizens.”
Should the tax increase be approved by voters on November 8, Haynie offered suggestions for where some of the money should be spent: in and around Boca Raton.
Some of the Boca-area projects Haynie wants the county to use sales tax money to pay for include:
-resurfacing Congress Avenue from Yamato Road to Clint Moore Road
-resurfacing Clint Moore Road from Military Trail to Congress Avenue
-resurfacing Palmetto Park Road from Military Trail to Interstate 95
-resurfacing Camino Real east of I-95
Even cities, towns and villages whose representatives opposed the sales tax increase will get some of the proceeds if it’s approved by voters. Enough municipal governments have already supported the tax increase to put it on the ballot.
Count Boca Raton in the “no” category. But if the tax increase passes, Haynie wrote that “it is the City’s strong belief that any and all County projects within the City should be accelerated and funded.”
Palm Beach County voters will have their say in November on whether the sales tax should be raised to pay for upgrades to roads, bridges, schools and county buildings.
County Administrator Verdenia Baker said city councils and commissions representing a majority of municipal residents have voted in favor of the proposed sales tax plan. She said that, by week’s end, city councils and commissions representing 63 percent of municipal residents will have backed the sales tax plan.
Those approvals were the last hurdle to placing a sales tax referendum on the ballot. The County Commission and School Board have already given their blessing to a penny-on-the-dollar sales tax increase, which would generate $2.7 billion over the next 10 years.
Cities would get 20 percent of the proceeds. The county would get 30 percent, and the Palm Beach County School District would get the rest.
County staff members have identified $696 million in projects that would be paid for with sales tax money. Some of that money would be spent on new projects, though Baker said they, too, address the county’s backlog of needs.
The projects list isn’t final.
Baker said her staff is still reviewing the list, which could grow before being finalized and made public at some still-undetermined date.
The county’s share of the sales tax proceeds is estimated to be about $810 million, but Baker said she will not recommend a projects list that spends all of that money. She said it will be her recommendation to leave room for adjustments as the cost of fuel and building materials change.
New street lighting. New sidewalks. New traffic monitoring systems. And those aren’t the most expensive items on the list of new projects Palm Beach County plans to fund through an increase in the sales tax.
If approved by voters this fall, the tax increase would generate $2.7 billion over the next decade. The county would get 30 percent of those proceeds, with the county School District getting 50 percent of them and cities getting the rest.
If 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.
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.
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.”
During a joint meeting to smooth over differences, Palm Beach County commissioners and school board members agreed on a joint plan to raise the county’s 6-cent sales tax by a penny on the dollar.
Commissioners and school board members had previously agreed on the broad outlines of the tax increase, which would generate $2.7 billion over 10 years for repairs to roads, bridges, schools and county buildings. School board members expressed concern, however, when commissioners changed the plan, stripping out a combined $161 million in funding for cultural projects and for economic development incentives.
On Tuesday at Palm Beach State College’s Lake Worth campus, commissioners and school board members agreed to a revised plan, which includes a provision to end the tax early if $2.7 billion is generated earlier than 10 years.