The Coastal Star

Delray Beach: Firm breaks down property values in CRA’s eight zones

By Jane Smith
    
    Delray Beach’s long-awaited property value analysis put numbers on what most people in the city already knew: The downtown core area saw the biggest gain in the past 30 years — at $649 million.
    Chris Wallace, president of Munilytics Inc., said the next two areas were the beach area, at $222.3 million, and North Federal Highway corridor, at $157 million.
    “We don’t recommend pulling any areas out. You need income from them to do projects in other areas,” said Wallace, whose firm won the bid last year to analyze the property values.
    Despite opposition from the City Commission, the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency board members decided to analyze the income and expenses in each of its eight areas. The expense breakdowns will be available on March 24.
    At the agency’s first February meeting, Wallace also told board members, “There is a disconnect between what the city thinks you are doing and what you are doing. Plus, the city is not executing on its end,” leading to delayed projects.
    In the current financial year, the CRA has nearly $8 million in projects that it could not finish in the previous year.
    As part of the CRA analysis, Wallace’s firm also interviewed most of the city commissioners and department heads. “The commission regrets not holding the joint workshops more frequently,” Wallace said.
    Just two were held between the City Commission and CRA board last year. The joint workshops need to be institutionalized, Wallace said, and the CRA board members agreed. The next one is planned for April, but no date has been set.
    “The city holds all the cards,” Wallace said. “We heard over and over about the alleys, streets, sidewalks that are not getting done.” The city and CRA are working on a joint plan that shows missing sidewalks and alleys so that they can be completed.
    “But you also have to keep the rents high (in the downtown and at the beach) because you need to keep the customers coming,” he said. He recommended reducing the city and county contributions instead of eliminating an area.
    When Delray Beach created its CRA district in 1985, a base taxable value was set for each area. Any amount above the base went to the CRA, with the city contributing 60 percent and the county 40 percent. In recent years as the size of the check that the city writes has grown to more than $8 million, Delray Beach has talked about pulling one or two areas out of the CRA district and into its own tax base. Most recently, the city is exploring reducing its contribution while trying to hold onto the county share.
    During public comments, County Tax Collector Anne Gannon explained the reason northwest area values were low. The area has mostly single-family homes whose owners have homestead exemptions. The homeowners also hold onto their properties for a long time, allowing them to enjoy the annual property tax increase limit of 3 percent.
    CRA board member Paul Zacks was pleased with the analysis. “Everyone likes the report,” he said. “We were criticized early on for spending the money.”

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