A Dallas-based firm with offices in Palm Beach Gardens has been selected as the project manager for the vast array of projects that will be paid for with money from the sales tax increase voters approved in November.
Jacobs Project Management beat out two other firms for the right to track and report the sales tax projects and provide information to the citizens oversight committee, a county-approved body that will monitor sales tax expenditures.
Commissioners ratified Jacobs’ selection Tuesday, authorizing County Administrator Verdenia Baker to begin negotiating a consulting fee with Jacobs.
That fee could be substantial, as the county expects its portion of the sales tax increase to be about $810 million over the next decade for upgrades to parks, roads, bridges and county-owned buildings.
Commissioners, with input from county staff members, will retain final say over which firms will be selected to undertake the sales tax work.
Jacobs will provide project updates to the oversight committee and to county staff.
Palm Beach County commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to establish a 19-member committee that will oversee projects paid for with money from the sales tax increase voters approved last month.
The committee members, to be selected by commissioners and various community organizations, must be Palm Beach County residents and would serve three-year terms.
The sales tax increase is expected to generate $2.7 billion over the next decade to repair roads, bridges, schools and county-owned buildings. Half of the money would go to the School District of Palm Beach County. The county gets 30 percent, and cities would get the remaining 20 percent.
Palm Beach County is offering thanks to county residents who earlier this month voted to approve a 10-year increase in the sales tax from 6 cents on the dollar to 7 cents on the dollar.
That thank you is carried on the county’s redesigned website, where residents get a breakdown of how the roughly $2.7 billion in additional sales tax money will be distributed.
The county will get 30 percent of the money, which it plans to spend rebuilding parks, roads, bridges and county buildings. Cities will get 20 percent, and the School District of Palm Beach County will get the remaining 50 percent.
Sharon Bock, Palm Beach County’s clerk and comptroller, has said her office will designate a special account so money from the recently approved increase in the sales tax can be closely monitored.
“A dedicated staff person will be assigned to monitor the receipts coming in, as well as audit any expenditures from this new fund,” Bock said in a statement released Friday.
She added: “Rest assured that my office will examine and account for every penny that is allocated and spent.”
Voters approved a 10-year increase in the sales tax from 6 cents on the dollar to 7 cents on the dollar. The increase is expected to generate $2.7 billion, with the School District of Palm Beach County getting half of that money, the county getting 30 percent of it and cities getting the remaining 20 percent.
County commissioners and staff have said they’ll use the county’s portion – estimated to be about $810 million – to repair parks, roads, bridges and buildings.
In approving the sales tax plan, commissioners also supported the establishment of citizen oversight committees to make sure the money is spent as originally planned. But Bock said she’ll be watching as well.
“As the official ‘watchdog’ of all county funds, I am constitutionally tasked to provide the necessary ‘checks and balances’ on the county’s budget, revenue and spending,” she said.
Bock’s office does have the power to refuse to release funds if she determines that the spending does not serve a public purpose.
“I know your tax dollars are in good hands,” she said. “We are here to protect and preserve public funds with integrity and accountability.”
Politicians conduct listening tours. Over the next month, Assistant Palm Beach County Administrator Todd Bonlarron is heading up a talking tour.
Bonlarron, tapped by County Administrator Verdenia Baker to lead the county’s effort to educate voters on the proposed sales tax increase, is coming to a library near you.
He won’t just be talking sales tax, though. A flier from the county’s library system notes that Bonlarron will discuss ballot initiatives dealing with the homestead tax exemption, solar power and medical marijuana.
State law forbids Bonlarron or any other county official from making overt political arguments, but there is no law against telling voters how the county plans to spend its portion of the roughly $2.7 billion the sales tax increase is expected to generate over the next 10 years.
Bonlarron is scheduled to hit two library branches on Thursday – the Jupiter Branch at 2 p.m. and The Acreage branch at 6:30 p.m. He’ll be at the Lantana Road branch at 3 p.m. on Friday, and he’ll resume the tour on Wednesday with a 1 p.m. stop at the West Boynton Branch.
Voters are encouraged to pre-register and can visit the system’s web site to find out when Bonlarron is scheduled to visit a branch in their area.
Now that Tuesday’s primary is over, expect to hear more from Palm Beach County officials about why it’s a great idea to raise the county’s sales tax. Expect to hear a lot more about that.
On Wednesday night, county staff members began circulating a draft copy of a brochure laying out information about the sales tax and reminding readers that “Election Day Is November 8, 2016.”
County officials can’t make political arguments in favor of raising the sales tax, but they can “educate” voters on what they see as the benefits of an increase. The county will rely on the Economic Council of Palm Beach County for the political push.
The proposed increase from 6 cents on the dollar to 7 cents on the dollar would raise an estimated $2.7 billion over the next 10 years.
That overall figure is not included on the brochure, which was put together by Assistant County Administrator Todd Bonlarron.
The brochure does note that the county would get 30 percent of the proceeds, with cities getting 20 percent and the School District of Palm Beach County getting the remaining 50 percent.
Also included on the brochure are phrases residents should expect to hear often over the next couple months, including the argument that the funds are to be used on “the three R’s: Repair Restore Replace.”
And, of course, the brochure describes the plan as “one county, one penny.”
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.
Palm Beach County government is operating in a whole new light today.
Guess that’s what new lighting can do. New lighting was installed in the 6th-floor chambers of the Weisman Government Center where county commissioners meet.
Those lights were shining brightly when commissioners began their meeting this morning, but county staff say the building is in need of more substantial repairs, which could be made with money from an increase in the sales tax. (That’s if voters pass the sales tax referendum.)
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.