Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Palm Beach County commissioners discuss raising taxes 15 percent

PALM BEACH COUNTY - Palm Beach County commissioners on Monday initially endorsed raising property tax rates as much as 15 percent next year, which would still not avoid layoffs and deep cuts to community services.

The county blames a drop in tax revenue amid a struggling economy for the need to boost tax rates to pay for county services.

If given final approval, the property tax rate would go from $3.78 per $1,000 of taxable value to $4.34. For a home worth about $230,000 and eligible for a $50,000 homestead exemption, that would equate to about $800 in county property taxes next year. That could translate to about $100 more in property taxes than this year and doesn't include taxes for schools, cities and other government agencies.

Even with an increased tax rate, the county is considering almost 200 layoffs as well as deep cuts to programs serving children, the elderly and the handicapped.

For budget planning purposes, a majority of commissioners Monday needed to agree on the maximum tax rate they would be willing to consider. A formal vote on the preliminary rate is scheduled for July 21. That proposed rate could still come down when commissioners take a final vote on the tax rate and proposed $4 million county budget in September.

For weeks, county commissioners have debated whether to cut spending deeper or boost tax rates to support county services.

"We are kind of walking around the deck of the Titanic here," Commission Chairman Jeff Koons said.

A coalition of business groups opposed boosting the property tax rate. The Business Forum of Palm Beach County in a letter to the commission called for deeper budget cuts instead of tax increases that "remove more dollars than absolutely necessary from local residents and businesses during this difficult economic time." More...

No comments: