Shared from the 2017-09-27 Palm Beach Post eEdition

PALM BEACH GARDENS

Taxes to rise for many in Palm Beach Gardens

PALM BEACH GARDENS — With Hurricane Irma in the rear-view mirror and a possible increase in property tax exemptions looming, Palm Beach Gardens officials opted not to lower the tax rate in the new year’s budget.

The budget City Council approved Monday means the owner of a homesteaded house valued at $350,000 before the exemption will pay about $35 more in taxes next year.

Homeowners with higher property values and those who don’t have the exemption will see a bigger increase in their tax bills. The tax rate will be $5.67 for every $1,000 of assessed value.

Officials deliberated about whether to lower the tax rate but reasoned it would be unwise in the face of a proposed Florida constitutional amendment that would increase the non-school homestead exemption by $25,000 a year. Voters will decide in November 2018.

Officials’ hands are tied because of the hurricane and proposed legislation, Mayor Maria Marino said.

Palm Beach Gardens stands to lose about $1.8 million each year if the exemption passes, according to estimates from the Palm Beach County Property Appraiser’s Office provided to the city.

Council members said they are also leery of a city tax reduction because Palm Beach Gardens will have to pay millions of dollars in Hurricane Irma-related expenses before the Federal Emergency Management Agency reimburses it years from now.

Councilwoman Rachelle Litt said the city will collect more in taxes as new development comes online in the next couple of years. Looking at a reduction in that time is “definitely not out of the question.”

“It may be more appropriate than at this current time, as much as we all would love to do that during our first term,” she said.

Vice Mayor Mark Marciano said he really wanted to try to push for a lower rate, and it’s not out of the question for the future, but he wants to see what the state legislature does first.

“We might look good doing that in the short term, but in the long term, it may have a negative effect on the city,” he said. “There’s a lot of uncertainty over the next number of years. If truly the oceans are warming, we may have a lot more storms to be dealing with.”

The operating tax rate of $5.55, which excludes debt service, will remain the same from this year to the next. The operating rate amounts to a 5.37 percent increase over the roll-back rate of $5.27. The roll-back rate is the rate that will generate the same amount of tax money as the previous year.

The additional money will be used to keep up with growth, primarily out west. Palm Beach Gardens plans to hire eight more police officers, bringing the force to 120, and two fire code officers.

Police need to expand patrol zones because the city annexed a 284-acre area on the north side of North-

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Development in the area is in the pipeline, with the Ancient Tree residential and Avenir residential and commercial developments still to come. speters@pbpost.com

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