The Coastal Star

Boca Raton: Higher property values help city keep tax rate down, restore staffing

By Sallie James

    Boca Raton property tax rates for the upcoming year are decreasing slightly, property values are up 7.46 percent and the city has plans to hire 76 new employees, including eight police officers and 16 firefighters.
    The new rates were finalized when City Council members in September gave the nod to the city’s $678.4 million budget, which includes a general fund budget of $161.1 million used to support city services such as police, fire, parks, planning, community development and administrative support services.
    “I am very pleased our property values rose as much as they did so we could maintain the same tax rate while including several new employees which are needed to maintain the level of service our residents expect of us,” Boca Raton Mayor Susan Haynie said.
    Here’s what this means to taxpayers in dollars and cents under the 2016-2017 city budget:
    The owner of a $550,000 home with a $50,000 homestead exemption will pay a municipal tax rate of $3.68 per $1,000 of assessed value, or $1,840, a slight decrease from last year.
    That does not take into account increased property values, which means homeowners could pay more.
    City residents will pay slightly more for fire rescue services, with the annual fee per household rising from $85 to $105 to offset the rising cost of providing fire services.
    The new budget includes $138,200 for the increase in City Council salaries voters approved in August.
    The voter-approved charter change established a $38,000 annual salary for the mayor, up from $9,000, and a $28,000 annual salary for council members, up from $7,200.
    Deputy Mayor Mike Mullaugh attributed the good fiscal news to good management.
    “We are now back to a place where we seem to have [one of the lowest rates] in Palm Beach County,” Mullaugh said.
    Mullaugh said the city is getting back to its pre-recession state by adding new employees and with the rising property values.
    “When we went into the recession we reduced the number of employees by more than 130 and we had maintenance schedules that were on an annual basis that we moved to an 18-month basis,” Mullaugh noted. “We tried to do it in a way that would never directly impact residents.”
    Haynie said the emphasis on public safety shows the city’s commitment to keeping its citizens safe.
    “People are concerned. They read the papers and see some of the safety issues that are happening in cities across our nation and I think [they] need to know we take safety and security very seriously.”
    New personnel to be hired in the upcoming year include: a compliance analyst, a senior accountant, a part-time administrative assistant, four code officers, a zoning officer, six public safety call takers, eight police officers, a fire training captain, a fire contract administrator, 16 firefighters, a streets supervisor, a transportation analyst, a traffic signal technician, a municipal services administrator, a digital librarian, a guest services associate and four groundskeepers.

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