Baker updates Black Chamber of Commerce on sales tax plans

Palm Beach County Administrator Verdenia Baker updated the Black Chamber of Commerce of Palm Beach County Friday on plans to raise the 6-cent sales tax by a penny on the dollar.

About 60 black business owners and officials were on hand at the Salvation Army’s Northwest Community Center in West Palm Beach as Baker detailed on how money from the tax increase – about $2.7 billion over 10 years – would be spent.

Nearly all of the money would be used to upgrade roads, bridges, schools and county buildings. About $121 million would be directed to brick-and-mortar projects at cultural institutions like museums and theaters, and another $40 million would be set aside as an economic development fund.

Some of those in attendance wanted to know how their businesses could bid for some of the work that would be undertaken if the sales tax is approved by voters this fall.

The County Commission has voted to move forward with a plan to increase the sales tax in conjunction with the Palm Beach County School Board. A public hearing on the plan is expected to be held on April 19 at the Weisman Governmental Center at 301 N. Olive Avenue.

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A divided PBC Commission approves sales tax plan

A divided Palm Beach County Commission approved a recommendation to raise the county’s sales tax Tuesday after a back and forth and back again series of motions.

Commissioners voted 5-2 in favor of raising the sales tax from 6 cents on the dollar to 7 cents on the dollar. The tax hike would generate $2.7 billion over 10 year for repairs to roads, bridges, schools and county buildings.

Cultural projects would get $121 million, and a $27 million fund would be established for economic development projects.

While the final vote indicated strong support for moving forward with a sales tax plan, the long debate and its twisting, contradictory series of motions and substitute motions underscore the concern of many commissioners that a plan including funding for cultural projects and economic development could be rejected by voters.

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Horse bedding recycling firms seek locations in Palm Beach County

At least 11 firms have expressed interest in operating a horse bedding recycling business in Palm Beach County. But finding the right spot for such an operation has proved difficult.

The County Commission was set to discuss the issue during a zoning meeting today, but the discussion was postponed because Commissioner Melissa McKinlay’s return flight from Washington, D.C. was delayed. McKinlay, who was in Washington for a National Association of Counties conference and to discuss issues related to Lake Okeechobee, represents the western areas of the county where equestrian pursuits are popular.

PBC Commissioner Melissa McKinlay
PBC Commissioner Melissa McKinlay

In October, the Commission turned down a request to create a special zoning district where a horse bedding recycling facility could be operated.

That request had drawn concerns about the possibility of the facility being operated in the Agricultural Reserve, a farming zone located west of Boynton Beach and Delray Beach. The request did not include plans to operate a bedding recycling facility in the Agricultural Reserve.

Bedding recycling facilities could be located in areas of the county zoned for industrial businesses. But because of the possibility of foul odors, those locations aren’t deemed to be a good fit – hence the effort to find a more isolated spot in the county that can be re-zoned for a bedding recycling facility.

Much of the manure in the county is spread over lands owned by U.S. Sugar. But as the equestrian industry grows in the county, illegal dumping of manure is becoming more of a problem.

McKinlay has said she does not want to repeat the Commission’s October discussion. She said she does want the county to work toward a more permanent solution.

The Commission could discuss the issue at its next zoning meeting in March.