Delray to discuss budget, tax rate, property values

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By: Marisa Gottesman Associate Editor
It is budget season. That means the city will be crunching numbers and coming up with a formula with what it takes to run the city.
The budget and tax rate must be set before the Oct. 1 start date of the fiscal year.
An overview of what the upcoming fiscal year will look like for the city was posted on the city’s website by City Manager Don Cooper. Ultimately, commissioners have final say over the budget and tax rate.
So far, the proposed tax rate is 7.2112 mills, which is less than the current rate of 7.3367 mills.
That means you will pay $7.21 per $1,000 of assessed property value. So, if you own a $250,000 home with a $50,000 homestead exemption, you can expect to pay about $1,442 in city property taxes. That is a $24 saving from this year.
But, the reduction doesn’t mean residents should expect to see their tax bills go down. The property appraiser has estimated that property values have increased 10.43 percent, which means your home’s value may increase in turn increasing your tax bill.
In a memo about the budget, Cooper states the budget is based on the city’s goals to plan a multi-year budget process, grow and diversify ways the city collects money, repair and replace things that need maintenance and improve public safety.
Initiatives budgeted for include, adding staff in public safety departments and other functions of government to improve how the city operates, continuing IT upgrades to outdated systems, adhering to the city’s new special events rules and paying attention to deferred maintenance projects and completing them.
Some of those projects include: completing Old School Square repairs, Beach Promenade Project, replacing Fire station No. 3, the Fire Training Center and repairing Veterans Park’s seawall and dock.
Cooper said the city has made progress since Jan. 2015. Highlights of things accomplished include: turning Clean & Safe into its own division, transferring the building division to planning department, creating a building fund separate from the general fund, developing a capital plan independent of the CRA, which allowed more city initiated projects to be funded.
He outlines proposed changes such as moving right of way maintenance from the Parks Department to Environmental Services.
Cooper said balancing the budget wasn’t easy. At first, he said the budget had a $20 million deficit. Of that amount $7 million was allocated for deferred maintenance. To balance the budget, he said the city is developing a multi-year debt financing program.
He said the city needs to study if there are any services or facilities the city no longer needs or if they are costing the city too much money. He also recommends charging for parking, growing the tax base throughout the city, lowering how much money the city gives to nonprofits to what the city rules actually call for and looking at ways to capture more money from the CRA.
Long term, he said the city will not make enough to cover its forecasted 10 year cash needs.
Commissioners can lower the tax rate during scheduled budget hearings. The hearings are open to the public and are scheduled to take place on Sept. 8 and Sept. 20. Both hearings will be open for public comment at 7 p.m.
Additional meetings to discuss the budget may be scheduled and will be announced on the city’s website.