By Mary Hladky

Boca Raton’s tax rate likely will remain unchanged for the coming fiscal year — though that translates into a 15% tax increase.
The 2022-23 tax rate, presented to the City Council on July 26 by City Manager Leif Ahnell, is the same as the current rate of $3.68 per $1,000 of taxable property value.
The city has long prided itself on its low tax rate that has kept steady for many years, which is possible because Boca Raton has the strongest tax base of any municipality in the county.
Even so, property owners will see higher tax bills because of soaring property values fueled by an exceptionally strong real estate market. The city would have to lower the millage rate to $3.20 per $1,000 of taxable value to bring in the same amount of tax revenue as the previous year.
Taxable property values surged by 14.5% this year, up from last year’s 3.8%. But homeowners whose properties are homesteaded will not feel the brunt of that increase because state law caps the taxable value increase at 3%. Non-homesteaded properties are capped at 10%.
The amount that homeowners will pay for fire protection services will rise to $155 in the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1, up from last year’s $145. The hike is the result of the increased cost of providing fire protection, the city said.
The increase in the annual assessment for commercial and industrial properties is based on the class and size of the buildings.
Boca’s tax rate will not be finalized until September. City Council members cannot raise the tax rate above what Ahnell submitted, but they do have leeway to lower it.
A public hearing on the tax rate and proposed 2022-23 budget will be held at 6 p.m. Sept. 12 in the auditorium of a city-owned building at 6500 Congress Avenue.
Mayor Scott Singer acknowledges that tax bills will rise, but notes that many residents are protected by homestead exemptions.
Boca, like all cities, is facing rising costs for materials, equipment and building projects due to price increases and supply chain issues, he said. The growing city also needs to hire more employees to keep service standards high and retain existing employees who have other job opportunities in the current strong labor market.
“We want to make sure we are balancing (the tax rate) appropriately because the costs of some of the basic functions we depend on every day are rising rapidly,” he said.
In other business:
• The city is set to approve a proposed cultural arts complex in Mizner Park at an Aug. 22 special meeting.
The Center for Arts and Innovation, the complex’s new name, is an ambitious $130 million project to be built on city-owned land and will include a performing arts center, completely renovated amphitheater, jewel box theater, rooftop terrace and outdoor performing arts spaces.
The City Council must approve two agreements that have been negotiated by city staff and the cultural center’s team. The pre-construction and development agreement includes specifics on the center’s and city’s obligations. The agreement to lease city land to the center has a 74-year term with two 10-year renewals for a total of 94 years.
Negotiations are largely concluded, but a few matters were unresolved as of the end of July.
• Deputy City Manager Mike Woika gave his farewell to City Council members during a July 25 meeting, marking the end of his 22-year career with the city.
Woika was the city’s jokester-in-chief. In true form, his speech was in verse, recalling highlights and lowlights of his tenure.
Andy Lukasik, a former North Palm Beach village manager and Jupiter town manager, has replaced Woika.
Council members thanked Woika and offered best wishes.
“We will miss your service,” Singer said. “We will miss some of your jokes.”
• Council members filled Gordon Gilbert’s seat on the city’s advisory Parks and Recreation Board after he declined to seek reappointment and moved out of the state. Gilbert, 91, a former Boca Raton High School biology teacher, sat on the board for 48 years. He conceived the idea for and was the first director of the Gumbo Limbo Nature Center. He also was a Greater Boca Raton Beach and Park District commissioner for 20 years.
“I just want to thank him for his many, many decades of service to our city,” council member Monica Mayotte said.

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