Palm Beach County Administrator Verdenia Baker explained the details of the county’s plan to raise the sales tax to a group of planning and growth management officials Tuesday morning.
Baker said the sales tax increase, which would generate an estimated $2.7 billion over the next decade, would allow the county to repair roads, bridges and county buildings that were neglected during the recent economic downturn.
Baker is expected to make a similar presentation from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. this evening at Suncoast Community High School in Riviera Beach. The meeting is free and open to the public.
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.
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.
Sherry Brown has been named the new director of Palm Beach County’s Office of Financial Management and Budget.
Brown had served as an assistant budget director under Liz Bloeser, who retired last week.
County Administrator Verdenia Baker said she selected Brown for the job after conducting an internal search. Baker praised Brown’s expertise in budgeting, debt management, strategic planning and labor contract negotiating. Brown has helped with planning for a proposed increase in the county’s sales tax.
Commissioners confirmed Brown’s promotion during today’s meeting.
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.
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.
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.”
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.”
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.