By Joe Capozzi
Town Council members voted Sept. 19 to give South Palm Beach homeowners some financial relief by lowering the tax rate next year to $3.45 per $1,000 of assessed value.
In July, the council had set a tentative tax rate of $3.50, the same as the current year, to pay for a $2.4 million budget for the year starting Oct. 1.
While many residents may welcome the lower rate, they still could see a rise in their tax bills because property values across South Palm Beach went up nearly 13% to a record $516,863,500.
At a public hearing Sept. 12, Mayor Bonnie Fischer asked town accountant Beatrice Good about the possibility of lowering the rate even more. But council members agreed to stick with the $3.45 rate until they know the costs of building a new Town Hall.
“Until we get it built, it’s ill advised to roll back the rate,’’ Town Manager Robert Kellogg said, pointing out that there’s no guarantee the robust values across town will continue next year.
“This is unsustainable what we are going through,’’ he said. “I hope we don’t experience what we experienced in 2008 and we see a significant collapse in the housing market. If we do, we’re going to be back in the same position you were up until last year in recouping that (lost) property value.’’
Property values in town dropped 47% during the Great Recession from 2008 through 2013, Good said.
“Our recommendation is absolutely you have room to give back but you should stay on course and hold on to the revenues being produced by the town for future needs so you don’t have to raise the (tax) rate in the future,’’ she said.
Kellogg said he’s confident the town will have revenue to pay for a new Town Hall. The costs could range from $2 million to $3 million.