By Steve Plunkett

The Greater Boca Raton Beach and Park District will spend up to $10,000 to get copies of public records from the city for its fight to stop sending millions of dollars each year to the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency.

Briann Harms, the district’s executive director, asked district commissioners to authorize her to spend more than $5,000 on the records request at their Dec. 4 meeting.

“Originally the bill was close to $9,000 so I’m looking for a ballpark around there,” she said.

Commissioners settled on $10,000 and Harms said she would ask for more if need be.

The Boca Raton City Council unanimously voted in November to extend the district’s obligation to make annual tax increment funding payments until 2042. Harms said the decision would divert $60 million from the district to the CRA that could be used for recreation needs.

The district is asking for, among other things, a copy of all the requests the CRA made in the last 10 years seeking recommendations from the district on how to spend the tax increment funding, as required by the interlocal agreement between the district and the CRA.

Commissioner Craig Ehrnst asked whether the board should hire an outside attorney to make the records request, but Sam Goren, the district’s contracted legal counsel, said his firm could handle it for now.

The city has already tasked outside lawyer Jamie Cole as a special counsel on the issue, and Cole has already contacted Goren, he said.

“This board has made no public decision to sue anybody for anything,” Goren pointed out.

But, he said, “The city’s obviously paying attention to what you do on this dais.”

The district’s tax increment financing payments to the Community Redevelopment Agency have grown from about $70,000 in 1986 to $2.6 million this year. Harms pleaded with the City Council for an exemption from the TIF payments before the CRA’s lifespan was extended.

The TIF payments amount to the taxes owed to the beach and park district from increased property values in the CRA district, taxes which under state law are then paid to the CRA.Harms said the law would allow the CRA to reduce or eliminate the district’s payments.

The district thought the TIF payments would end in 2019 when the bond for building Mizner Park was paid off. That didn’t happen.

Then the district thought the payments would end in 2025 when the Community Redevelopment Agency was scheduled to sunset.

But in June, then-City Manager Leif Ahnell proposed extending the CRA to 2042, and with it the district’s obligation to make payments.

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