Lox Council Sets Higher Preliminary Property Tax Rate

The Loxahatchee Groves Town Council adopted resolutions Tuesday approving a tax rate increase from 1.2 mills to 1.5 mills, as well as increased residential waste service rates.

The millage increase was largely due to a 3.8 percent dip this year in the town’s taxable property value.

Town Manager Mark Kutney said the total solid waste assessment will be $427,784, which will cost individual property owners $343.25. Last year, the council kept the rate artificially low through a $126,000 council contribution to the solid waste fund, which is not available this year.

Town Attorney Michael Cirullo recommended that the solid waste assessment be approved in order to attach it to the tax bill, which needs to be advertised and delivered by Sept. 15, and would require a special meeting before that date in order to receive a public hearing and the required council approval.

Cirullo pointed out that because the council is raising the rate from last year, it will have to do its own first-class mailing. “In the past, we relied on the TRIM (Truth in Millage) notice,” he said.

Cirullo said the resolution must be approved before Sept. 15, and the notices must be mailed at least 20 days before the hearing.

“It has to be first-class mail and specific to each unit, because it has to tell you how you’re being assessed,” he said. “The logistics of getting that done is a concern by the management company, but it’s an absolute prerogative that it be done 20 days before the hearing.”

Councilman Ron Jarriel made a motion to set the hearing for Tuesday, Sept. 10, which carried unanimously.

Jarriel requested a clarification on the assessment rate. “Last year, we paid [$126,000] to cut down our costs on the residents. Was it still lower than last year?” he asked.

Underwood Management Services CEO Bill Underwood, head of the town’s contracted management firm, said the $126,000 contribution reduced the assessment by about $98 per household.

“We don’t have that flexibility this year,” Underwood said, explaining that the cost of $343.25 per residence is actually lower than the $373 the town paid per household in the current year.

Councilman Jim Rockett made a motion to adopt a preliminary resolution setting the solid waste assessment rate, which carried unanimously.

The council also approved a resolution setting the property tax rate at 1.5 mills. The public hearing on the tax rate will be at the council’s regular meeting Tuesday, Sept. 3 at 7 p.m.

At the town’s budget workshop July 2, Kutney said the 0.3-mill increase is due to a 3-mill equivalency required by state statutes, which means the town must produce $1,140,752 in revenue in order to be eligible for certain state revenue.

Rockett pointed out that the council would have the option to reduce the rate at public hearings. He made a motion to approve the resolution adopting the 1.5 millage rate, which carried unanimously.

The council also gave preliminary approval of an ordinance creating a five-year capital improvements plan to help resolve issues with the town spending its gas-tax money.

Although the council has a capital improvements plan, a report by Planning Consultant Jim Fleischmann pointed out that town management had identified concerns with utilization of gas tax revenue and inadequacies of the comprehensive plan in that the town’s capital improvements element did not indicate any expenditures on capital projects scheduled for the planning period.

Town staff introduced a list of capital projects previously discussed that could qualify for the capital improvements element in order to address issues of the comp plan and to implement transportation fund recommendations.

Staff’s list of improvements included a survey of non-district roads, Collecting Canal Road open-graded emulsified mix (OGEM) improvements and other unspecified OGEM improvements, a traffic light at Okeechobee Blvd. and D Road, an equestrian trail/linear park from A Road to Folsom Road, as well as projects by outside agencies, including the Palm Beach County School District and the Florida Department of Transportation.

After discussion by council members, Rockett made a motion to approve the capital plan, which also carried unanimously.