Delray commissioners raise tax rates

By David Sedore, Palm Beach

DELRAY BEACH — Delray Beach city commissioners agreed to hike property tax rates Tuesday evening, though the vote is far from final in what promises to be a budget season unlike any other in city history.

By a 3-1 vote, commissioner set the rate at $7.3833 per $1,000 of assessed value. The current rate is $6.39 per $1,000. A resident with a home assessed at $250,000 would be receiving a tax bill of $1,979 in the budget year beginning Oct. 1, an increase of $266 over the present rate.

In practical terms, Tuesday’s vote only sets a maximum rate as commissioners begin work on the budget for the coming year. They’re free to set a lower rate if somehow they can find cuts to balance the budget. A final vote on the rate won’t come until September.

But even with the hike, the city still faces a $3.8 million hole in the budget that will be difficult to fill.

“We have a huge problem,” Mayor Woodie McDuffie said. “No one wants to raise millage rates. If we make draconian cuts, it’s bad for the city and it’s bad for you.”

Said Commissioner Gary Eliopoulos: “This isn’t going to be pleasant.”

At the heart of the problem is the steep decline in property values over the past year. A year ago the city was looking at a property tax base worth $8.15 billion; For the coming year, preliminary figures from the county show the tax base dropping to about $7.1 billion.

City Manager David Harden recommended that commissioners preliminarily set the tax rate even higher, at $7.6510, with the intent of cutting back as they find ways to slice the budget over the next couple of months.

However, commissioners Fred Fetzer and Adam Frankel were against such a move.

“I’m just concerned with the message that we’re sending,” Fetzer said. Ultimately Fetzer voted against the smaller tax hike.

Frankel said Harden’s recommended rate amounted to a 17 percent tax hike. He went along with the smaller increase but said he preferred seeing the city raise fees more steeply to make up some of the gap.

“If someone wants to do something, they ought to pay,” Frankel said.

Commissioners in fact did increase many building and planning related fees, but not as much as Frankel would have preferred.

The commission’s fifth member, Mackenson Bernard, was not present for Tuesday’s meeting, but he is resigning effective Saturday to run for the state House of Representatives. A replacement should be appointed about the time commissioners prepare to take a final vote on the budget.

Commissioners do have one ace to play: The final report of the city’s budget task force, which includes recommendations on ways to cut or collect several million dollars if they can be implemented.

ad for mac corner
palm beach
JULY 21, 2009 click to go home
click to go back to the top
Delray's Online Business and Community Newspaper