Maximum Millage Adopted

Yesterday, the County Commission set the county-wide maximum millage at 4.7815, unchanged in four years. Reduced payments on county debt have very slightly reduced another line item called the “voted debt” millage, and they are trying to claim a slight reduction by combining the two rates, but I am sure you are not fooled. (See: Rate to ensure tax hikes for many in the Palm Beach Post, and Palm Beach County holds the line again on property tax rates in the Sun Sentinel.)

At this millage, rising valuations will generate an additional $44M windfall for the county over last years take, a hefty increase. It is not enough for some commissioners though – Shelley Vana and Mayor Priscilla Taylor argued strongly that there are so many additional things they would like to spend money on, that we should actually increase the tax rate. Commissioner Berger joined them in supporting Vana’s motion, but it failed 3-3 with commissioner Burdick absent. Hal Valeche and Steven Abrams argued against any increase, and Jess Santamaria joined them to defeat it.

We were surprised by this attempt to raise the rate, given the hefty tax increase already planned, and expected a pro-forma vote, coming as it did at the end of a long and involved commission agenda. As such, we did not participate in the meeting, nor call for others to do so. Only two members of the public spoke against the tax rate, Anne Kuhl and Alex Larson.

The $44M tax increase (more than $63M in aggregate, when Fire/Rescue’s $14M hike is included), is too much, coming as it did after last year’s $22M hike. The September public hearings on the budget (September 8 and 22) are the time to make our voice heard on that subject. Although the maximum millage has been set (required to generate initial TRIM notices), the rate can be reduced in those meetings. Reductions in the rate of growth of some programs, particularly the Sheriff, are warranted.

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