Lox Groves Finalizes Budget

Loxahatchee Groves Town Council members met Tuesday, Sept. 23 and finalized the town’s budget and tax rate for the upcoming year.

The council voted to reduce the proposed millage rate from the Truth in Millage (TRIM) rate set in July of 1.5 mills to a lower rate of 1.2 mills for the 2014-15 fiscal year.

Setting the rate at 1.2 mills leaves the town’s property tax rate unchanged from last year. However, due to increasing property values, the rate is 9.6 percent more than the rollback rate of 1.0954 mills.

Bill Underwood, managing partner of the town’s contracted management firm, made a presentation before the rate resolution was voted upon.

“For each one-tenth of a mill, you would be reducing the revenue $21,910, so if you went from 1.5 down to 1.4, you would be reducing the revenue and the contingency by $21,910 for each of those 0.1 mill reductions,” he said.

However, residents attending the meeting were not happy with the proposed rate increase.

“The only way I would support an increase in the millage is to increase services to the town,” said Keith Harris of C Road. “If we get additional services, we should be willing to pay for it. If it was to raise to 1.5, I think it should be stipulated for a particular purpose, such as the procurement of a permanent town hall.”

When the budget was first discussed in July, council members said that they would prefer to keep the tax rate unchanged.

The resolution to set the rate at 1.2 mills passed on a 4-1 vote with Councilman Tom Goltzené dissenting.

The rate equates to $1.20 per $1,000 assessed valuation on a homeowner’s tax bill after exemptions.

After the change, the council unanimously agreed to a number of other budget changes to reflect the new income level.

Wayne Burns, CEO of the Central Palm Beach County Chamber of Commerce, was also on hand Tuesday to give a presentation regarding the chamber’s building located at F Road and Southern Blvd.

Burns has been discussing having the town take over the chamber’s building. He proposed a lease option, as well a lease with an option to buy.

Using Loopnet, a real estate search engine, in addition to appraisals and assessments, Burns told the council that there are not any similarly priced buildings available within a reasonable radius, and that the chamber is offering a price that is competitive with the market.

“We’re talking about a $480,000 buy price. We recognize that if you were to be interested in that and agree to that, that the stipulation is clear: We would need to go to the county,” he said, noting that the county owns the land and leases it to the chamber. “We would go to the county with deal-in-hand and tell them that the only way this moves forward is if they agree to deed the land. Another option, and I know this would be less preferable, maybe you desire it or not, would be a 99-year lease with a $1 buyout. But certainly we would go with the stipulation that you’re not going to make a move unless the county does so.”

After discussing the numbers and pointing out building scarcity in the region, Burns made a request.

“My request is, whatever you decide, if you have any seriousness about pursuing this and are not wanting us to take this opportunity public, then let us go away with a confirmed agreement that has stipulations, the county is one of those stipulations, and we will go to the county, say we have a deal in hand, and if they agree to the stipulations put forth by this council, then that deal will move forward,” he said.

Councilman Jim Rockett recommended buying the building outright, rather than getting into a lease. Goltzené, who thought the building decision was being rushed, suggested spending the $480,000 to do road projects, rather than purchasing a building.

Rockett made a motion for updated information from the chamber, to revisit the topic, with appraisals, at the next meeting. “Time is of the essence, as far as I’m concerned, and it is a good opportunity,” he said.

Rocket’s motion passed, 4-1, with Goltzené opposed.

In other business:

• Two contracts were renewed for one year. After Mayor Dave Browning confirmed with Town Manager Mark Kutney that Tew & Taylor’s 2014-15 contract for code-related services remained the same, the renewal passed 5-0. The renewal agreement for Frank Schiola as the town’s public works and solid waste consultant for the new fiscal year was also renewed in a 5-0 vote.

• Kutney provided brief updates on general council matters before saying his final goodbyes as town manager. “Tonight will be my final meeting as your town manager based upon your earlier action and since Mr. Underwood will be taking this chair, I would like the town council to know that in my judgment, every past action that I have taken was in the best interests of the common good for the Town of Loxahatchee Groves,” he said. “In any event, I want to thank the mayor and the town council for the opportunity to serve all of you and the good citizens of Loxahatchee Groves. I wish the town council and the town the best in your future endeavors.”