Delray Beach To Set Lower Tax Rate

2094

By: Marisa Herman Associate Editor

Delray Beach commissioners will honor a commitment to lower the tax rate by at least one-tenth of a mill for another year.

Last month, commissioners set the cap for the highest amount the city will assess residents on property taxes.

That amount totaled $6.9719 for every $1,000 of assessed property value. That means the owner of a $350,000 home with a $50,000 homestead exemption will likely pay $2,091 in property taxes for the upcoming 2018-2019 fiscal year.

“I don’t think there is a lot of risk at lowering the millage rate, but you will have no flexibility,” City Manager Mark Lauzier said.

The millage rate can be lowered even more but not raised until the final number is adopted in September. Budget hearings, which are public hearings are scheduled for Sept. 6 and Sept. 25.

Before the final vote takes place, City Manager Mark Lauzier said he will hold town hall meetings with the community this month on Aug. 2, 6, and 8. Check the city’s website for times and locations.

He will walk commissioners through the city’s budget entirely during a workshop meeting on Aug. 14.

Just because the tax rate is lower does not mean residents’ tax bills will be less. Property values are on the rise, according the Palm Beach County Property Appraiser’s office.

In Delray Beach, the increase in property values over the last year totals 8.62 percent.

The Delray Beach Downtown Development Authority, which is a taxing district, saw an increase of 11.63 percent.

The DDA received initial support to charge its residents 1 mill. The authority is responsible for promoting and marketing the downtown. The tax rate will go through the same approval process as the city.

Lauzier presented several scenarios to commissioners before they selected keeping in line with a 10-year plan to lower the millage rate by 1/10 of a mill every year.

He said the lower amount is a balanced budget, but it does not fund year three of a three-year-city plan to increase public safety in the city by adding police officers and firefighters.

That was a concern for Commissioner Shirley Johnson, who cast the sole dissenting vote on the lower rate.

“We never want to pay for what we want to get,” she said. “We are bringing on additional population, but we are keeping our police officers where they are, and I for one don’t see enough police officers on the street. We can’t keep growing and keep cutting.”

If the city kept the millage rate the same as this current year, the city would have about $800,000 extra dollars to work with. If it increased the tax rate by a mill the city would have an extra $1.6 million, Lauzier said.

Some commissioners said the city should aim to continue to decrease its tax rate. Commissioner Adam Frankel said his goal would be a 5 percent decrease.

“We are gong to need to do a better job of collecting outstanding debt,” Mayor Shelly Petrolia said.

Commissioner Bill Bathurst added that revenue from new construction and parking meters will help bring new money into the city’s coffers.