The Loxahatchee Groves Town Council approved a lower solid-waste collection assessment Tuesday in anticipation of a transfer from its general revenue fund, which will be larger due to an anticipated increase in ad valorem tax collections.
Town Manager Bill Underwood said that the council had set notices of a per unit assessment of $300 for next year, which was a $44.10 reduction from the current assessment. At Tuesday’s meeting, the council decided to lower the assessment even further.
“I got some information recently that I wanted to share with you because part of setting this assessment is dependent on the millage rate that you will set at the next two meetings,” Underwood said.
He pointed out that all but five of the 38 municipalities in Palm Beach County and the county itself have increased their millage rates.
“What we see is that five have reduced the rate or kept it unchanged, and we are roughly in the middle with a slight increase in the ad valorem taxes,” Underwood said.
He said that the millage set by the council is at 1.4718 mills. The current millage rate is 1.2 mills, which equates to $1.20 per $1,000 in assessed valuation, after exemptions.
“What we adopted and what everyone is getting in their TRIM notice is 1.4718 mills, and the current rollback rate is 1.0759 mills,” he said. “The proposal in the budget was to reduce the solid waste by the amount of the increase in the ad valorem taxes, and as such, what we see is if you were to adopt the 1.2 mills, you would be able to apply the excess revenue to the solid waste assessment and go with $300 per residential unit, and you would save roughly $33.42 per unit per year with the adopted rate, and you could apply that money to the solid waste.”
He said the alternative would be to go with a $58,000 supplement to the general fund with an ad valorem rate of 1.2. The total Waste Pro contract will increase 3.5 percent from $414,150 to $428,645.
Another alternative would be to transfer $115,000 from the general fund to solid waste and keep the millage rate at the adopted 1.4718, and drop the solid waste assessment from $344.10 to $256.27.
Town Attorney Michael Cirullo clarified that what the council was doing that evening was adopting the special assessment, not the ad valorem tax rate, which would be adopted at later meetings.
“We are not going higher than what you set previously, which is $300 per unit,” Cirullo said.
Vice Mayor Ron Jarriel said he wanted to save the residents money.
“My concern has always been that we give the residents a break, but at the same time, we’ve got commercial coming into Loxahatchee Groves,” Jarriel said. “I do believe that all commercial coming into Loxahatchee Groves, especially along Southern Blvd., they need to pay for the privilege of being here. So, if we don’t keep our taxes lower, that means the commercial is going to pay us more, and there’s going to be more benefits from them, whether it’s drainage, roads or whatever. I personally like the idea that we stay at what we proposed. It gives the residents the largest savings, and at the same time it keeps it up for the commercial properties to put something back into this town for the privilege of being here.”
Councilman Jim Rockett said he favored lowering the solid waste assessment, but questioned the savings to residents, because the ad valorem revenue from residents is far greater than commercial tax revenue.
“We’ve done it before with the garbage assessment, and we’re doing it again in terms of giving some back, but we’ve got a lot of money in the coffers,” Rockett said. “I question our method of taking money from primarily residents, which is the vast majority of the tax structure.”
Rockett suggested creating a special commercial tax district, rather than increasing the ad valorem tax and refunding the difference to residents.
“I think we should take a look at that,” he said. “Wherever we are for the garbage, I support it, but I don’t support taking money from one pocket and giving it to another. I’d take it out of the town’s pocket, which we have plenty, and give it to the folks. We’ve done that once before without raising taxes.”
Jarriel made a motion to adopt the $256.27 assessment per residential unit for a total of $337,253, which carried 5-0.
In other business, Underwood asked for authorization to seek letters of interest for a new town attorney.
Cirullo’s firm, Goren, Cherof, Doody & Ezrol, recently announced its resignation.
Jarriel asked Cirullo if he would extend the notice from 30 to 60 days in order to give the council more time to find another firm, which he agreed to.
Mayor Dave Browning said the cost would be hourly, but the rates would be submitted in sealed envelopes in order to give the council the opportunity to consider the applicants on their merits rather than the cost.
The council also approved a request for proposals for a new code enforcement firm. The current firm submitted its resignation effective Sept 20.