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Palm Beach County Commissioners to discuss tax increase tomorrow

The 2014 Palm Beach County Board of Commissioners
The 2014 Palm Beach County Board of Commissioners

Apparently the Palm Beach County Commissioners were not convinced last year that Palm Beach County residents were not in favor of increasing taxes in the county, because tomorrow they will discuss adding .5% sales tax in the county. The already bloated county budget, mostly due to Palm Beach Sheriff's Office, is set to expand if the commission has anything to say about it as tomorrow they discuss the adding a referendum to the November, 2014 ballot.

County residents are being asked by low tax advocacy organizations such as the Libertarian Party of Palm Beach County and the Palm Beach County Taxpayer Action Board to either write or call their county commissioner or attend tomorrow's Board of County Commission meeting at the Government Center, 301 N Olive on the 6th Floor in West Palm Beach, Florida between 1:30 p.m. and 5 p.m.

This morning Fred Scheibl of the Taxpayer Action Board stated:

"This was originally proposed and rejected in 2012, then brought back last December. While you might expect such a significant move would be driven by an urgent need, or perhaps a strategic attempt to diversify revenue, this proposal is for nothing more than a diverse collection of maintenance items, sweetened by a $44M diversion to the municipalities for unspecified projects.

In December, three of the seven Commissioners opposed it (Abrams, Burdick and Valeche), but the majority sent it back to staff to make it more palatable. I think you will see that they failed at that.

If we are fortunate, the proposal will die tomorrow, but if it moves forward, another vote would be taken (around July) to finalize it on the ballot. Now is the time to let your Commissioners know your views on the subject. Please consider calling, sending email, or speaking at the meeting."

The following are some reasons to county residents may want to oppose a sales tax hike on the ballot:

1. It is a tax increase equivalent to an 18% rise in property taxes. While a case could be made for increasing revenue diversity, this proposal makes no attempt at reducing the burden elsewhere.
2. Maintaining our roads and bridges is a core function of government. Diverting general fund dollars over the last few years on other priorities (such as the Sheriff) was a management failing - not a justification for tax increases.
3. The proposal would more than double (120%) the entire budget of Engineering and Public Works. This would come at a time when the two biggest components of E&PW revenue, the gas tax ($24M) and property taxes ($21M) are up 11% and 40% respectively compared to 2013. The $66M from a sales tax would dwarf either of these sources. There will also be less pressure on property taxes this year as valuations are expected to rise 6-7%.
4. It would compete with an equivalent increase for the School System (probably), as well as the re-authorization of the Children's Services Council taxing district.
5. The proposal is still a "grab bag" of small projects (as described by a Commissioner in December) with no clearly urgent need.
6. It contains an un-needed gift to the cities. Diverting 40% of the expected revenue to the municipalities (required for the surtax) is tax money that will likely be spent on projects that are not urgent nor being asked for by residents.

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