By Mary Hladky
The City Council held the line on its tax rate this year, approving $3.68 per $1,000 of taxable property value that is unchanged from last year’s rate.
But the rate is 6.6% higher than the so-called rollback rate that would have generated the same tax revenue as the previous year. Also, property valuations in Boca Raton continued to increase this year.
The council on Sept. 21 also unanimously approved a $772.6 million budget for the 2020-21 fiscal year, down slightly from last year’s $784 million.
City administrators kept a tight rein on spending, adding only three new employees to the city’s workforce. The most significant increased cost was $2.6 million for salaries and benefits. But other expenditures were trimmed, including $1.4 million for vehicles and $422,000 for travel.
“I think all our residents can be pleased that our millage rate is not increasing, our water and sewer rates are not increasing, our other fees are not increasing, and we continue to have a healthy budget, AAA bond rating and exceptional services provided at low cost to taxpayers,” Mayor Scott Singer said.
As budget planning began earlier this year, city officials feared the city’s finances could be slammed by property value declines next year and more immediate drop-offs in sales tax and user fee revenues due to the coronavirus pandemic.
But City Manager Leif Ahnell told council members on Sept. 8 that while the pandemic did have an impact, especially in May and June, it was less than expected.
This year’s property valuations, based on data gathered before the coronavirus hit, increased by 4.75%. Ahnell’s concerns about next year’s valuations have been eased by an influx of out-of-state residents buying homes in Florida.
“We are seeing a huge number of purchasers coming to Florida to buy property,” he said, and it now appears that property values will increase substantially next year.
He and his staff also think that user fees and sales tax revenues will swing up once a COVID-19 vaccine becomes available.
Singer underscored Ahnell’s point by noting that a recent New York Times article about Florida’s hot property market featured Boca Raton and included a photograph of Mizner Park.
In other good news for city homeowners, the amount they pay for fire protection will remain at $145 after last year’s $10 increase. Water and sewer rates also are unchanged.
But residents will see some cost increases.
The City Council’s 2019 decision to keep residential garbage collection and recycling services in-house, rather than outsourcing them to a private company, immediately resulted in new employee hiring, plans to buy new collection vehicles and an increase in sanitation rates.
Sanitation rates will increase again this fiscal year — by $1.99 to $23.58 per month for single-family residents and $1.20 to $14.27 per month for multi-family dwellings — to pay for two more employees, vehicles, equipment and facilities to store sanitation vehicles.
New user fees will be charged to people using the city’s parks. These include a fee for new picnic shelter rentals at Hillsboro El Rio, University Woodlands and George Snow parks.
Golf course, cemetery and mausoleum fees also will increase slightly.
By Mary Hladky