Alperin to Delray commissioners: Don't move backwards

By David Sedore, Palm Beach

DELRAY BEACH — Don’t turn the clock back on Delray Beach. Don’t return it to the city it was two decades ago.

That was the impassioned message former Mayor Jay Alperin had for Delray’s city commissioners during a public hearing on the proposed 2009-10 city budget held Tuesday evening.

“I don’t want to pay any more taxes,” Alperin said.  “I want my taxes to go down. I’d rather not pay any taxes at all. However, I remember what Delray was like in the 1980s.

“We looked like an old, dying village. We cannot afford to move backwards.”

Alperin, who maintains a dental practice in the city, also serves as the chairman of Delray’s chamber of commerce. He said the chamber board has yet to take a position on the budget, and he was not speaking on behalf of the organization.

Alperin advised commissioners to remember that past as they continue to put together a budget for the coming year.

Last month, commissioners set the proposed property tax rate at $7.3833 per $1,000 of assessed value. The current rate is $6.39 per $1,000.

That vote in practical terms only set a maximum rate; commissioners can reduce it as continue to work on the budget. They’re set to take a final vote on Sept. 22.

But even with the hike, the city still faces a $3.8 million budget donut that will be difficult to fill. And commissioners have pledged to cut the tax rate further, if they can.

“We aren’t giving up on the city of Delray Beach,” Mayor Woodie McDuffie later said in reply to Alperin as the meeting was ending. “We’re not scraping the bottom of the barrel.”

McDuffie, who works in the county property appraiser’s office, the proposed tax hike would cost the owner of a home with a $100,000 assessment about $99 a year. The owner of a home valued at $1 million would pay about $83 a month more in taxes.

“That’s not a huge thing to ask the citizens of Delray in order to keep Delray in the condition that it is in,” McDuffie said.

Also Tuesday, commissioners approved first reading of an ordinance that adds a $5 surcharge to parking fines. The additional fin would generate $30,000 a year, with the money going to fund school crossing guards. The ordinance will be up for a second reading and public hearing on Sept. 10.

Commissioners agreed to hike rental fees for city recreational facilities, including park pavilions and meeting rooms. The increases are expected to generate nearly $47,000 for the coming budget year.

Commissioners approved a proposal to provide building permit and inspection services for Gulf Stream. The deal is expected to generate about $100,000 for Delray.

The meeting was the last for Commissioner Mackenson Bernard, who is resigning his seat to run for the state House of Representatives in a special election to be held August 25. Bernard joined the commission about a year ago.

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