The Coastal Star

Along the Coast: Municipal revenues decline as property values slip again

By Margie Plunkett


The official word on estimated property values in Palm Beach County that came out in late May confirmed what many already anticipated as another down year for taxable
property values — and for municipal coffers.


Taxable values fell in a range from 6.8 percent in Briny Breezes to 18.1 percent in Lantana in coastal cities here, compared with a drop of 12.3 percent for all
cities, according to the Palm Beach County Appraiser. Lake Clark Shores saw the
smallest percentage decline in the county at 5.2 percent and Lake Worth, the
largest at 24.9 percent.


The declining tax rolls illustrate another year in which municipalities struggle with budget cuts and possible tax increases to cope with declining revenues
from property values. Taxable property values fell sharply last year as well.


The silver lining for some: the estimated declines dated June 1 and corresponding tax revenues weren’t as steep as earlier projections.


“It’s all degrees of hell,” said Lantana Town Manager Mike Bornstein.


Lantana, for instance, in February was calculating about a 20 percent decline and a subsequent county projection came in at a drop of 23 percent, Bornstein said.
The latest estimate “was better by a little bit, with a net result of about
$70,000 in general fund revenue,” he said.


Mayor David Stewart has reminded Lantana Town Council members and residents constantly of the evident continuing decline in property values, routinely
opening meetings with a report of the latest home that’s sold for half its
previous value.


The town has been taking cuts to its budget as part of a fiscally conservative approach, Bornstein said. Lantana most recently has pushed for a budget savings
of as much as $125,000 with a proposed change that would allow its police chief
to retire six months earlier.


While various municipalities will consider tax increases as they prepare next year’s budget, Briny Breezes won’t have that luxury.


Last year, the small town was the only one in the county to see an increase in values. It still upped its tax millage rate to 10.0 in the face of
unpredictable rising costs of police protection and water services.


“We can’t go any higher,” Mayor Roger Bennett said, explaining Briny Breezes is at the maximum allowable millage rate and can’t raise taxes again.


The 6.8 percent estimated decline in taxable values for Briny Breezes translates into roughly $34,000 less in the budget, Bennett said, whose municipal
government shares leadership with a board that runs the corporation that owns
the Briny Breezes mobile home park.


“We have to tighten up a little bit, and that’s tough,” Bennett said. “We’re thankful we have the corporation that bails us out.”



2010 Estimates of Taxable Values



Estimates of total taxable value as of June 1, 2010, by the Palm Beach County Property Appraiser’s Office compared with preliminary taxable value in 2009.




City Estimated 2010 (june 1) 2009 (July 1)


Total % Change %
Change


Taxable Value From 2009 From 2008



Boynton Beach $3.8 billion -18.1 -18.2


Briny Breezes $36.3 million -6.8 +2.3


Delray Beach $6.1 billion -13.4 -14.4


Gulf Stream $655.7 million -7.1 -5.9


Lantana $710.9 million -18.4 -13.8


Manalapan $858.2 million -8.9 -5.3


Ocean Ridge $672.7 million -8.1 -13.3


All PBC Cities $85.8 billion -12.3 -12.2


Palm Beach County $124.5 billion -11.8 -12.9



SOURCE: Palm Beach County Property Appraiser




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