The Palm Beach City Council has agreed to reduce the property tax rate for the upcoming fiscal year.
During the first of two public budget hearings required by the state on Sept. 14 at City Hall, council members voted unanimously to pass a proposed mileage rate of $2.69 per mileage. $1,000 assessed value.
The proposed property tax rate represents a 7% reduction from the current rate of $2.89 per $1,000 of assessed value.
Maintaining the current tax rate would have resulted in a significant tax increase for all city residents, Chief Financial Officer Jane LeClainche told council members in July. The proposed tax rate — if approved at final reading on Thursday — would represent a $113 million tax cut for homesteads and a $66 increase for non-homesteads on the base of the 10% cap, as defined by state law.
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The proposed rate would generate an additional $2.5 million in tax revenue, for a total of $65.4 million.
The council has agreed to use the extra tax revenue for the public safety improvements the city is asking for, City Manager Kirk Blouin said.
These improvements include the installation of smart traffic lights and crosswalks and other improved technologies throughout the city.
Smart traffic lights collect information from sensors placed at intersections and regularly update the timing of the lights based on actual conditions. Light cycles can be adjusted remotely using this system, which is designed to reduce the time cars spend idling.
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Currently, when traffic slows at one of the city’s 12 intersections, officers must go to the site and manually change the light cycle, Blouin told the Daily News.
Smart signal technology would allow city officials to manage traffic more efficiently, he added, although it will not solve all of the city’s traffic problems due to the large number of vehicles on the roads.
“It’s not a silver bullet,” Blouin said. “But it will definitely allow us to react faster and control the traffic a little better, at least here on the island.”
At the Sept. 14 hearing, city council also passed an interim operating budget of $97.2 million for the 2022-23 fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1. This figure is 9% higher than the current budget of $89.1 million, with most of the increase intended to cover additional staff, salaries, contractual and inflationary increases; increase in the transfer to the coastal protection fund; and improving public safety capital assets.
The spending plan includes the addition of 9.6 new full-time positions, all in the public safety sector. With these additions, the town’s workforce would grow to nearly 363 employees.
The final budget hearing is set for 5:01 p.m. Thursday at City Hall.
Jodie Wagner is a reporter for the Palm Beach Daily News, part of the USA TODAY Florida Network. You can reach her at [email protected] Help support our journalism. Subscribe today.