Expenses Offset Anticipated Revenue Increase In Lox Groves

The Town of Loxahatchee Groves faces bittersweet conditions in its budget process for 2017-18. The town had one of the county’s largest property value increases over the past year, but it also faces the cost just about doubling for police protection, which will greatly improve public safety, but also result in an increase in property taxes.

In July, the Loxahatchee Groves Town Council adopted an ad valorem tax rate of 2.6 mills, up from current rate of 1.4718 mills. At that rate, residents will pay a monthly average of $12.70 or $152.44 annually above the current rate for a total of $365,964 more in fiscal year 2018.

The total taxable value for the town jumped from $258,253,505 in fiscal year 2016 to an estimated $294,360,311 in fiscal year 2017.

The town has two public meetings scheduled on Tuesday, Sept. 7 and Tuesday, Sept. 19 to review the budget, when the council may reduce the ad valorem tax rate but not raise it.

The town is also in the process of taking over the remaining roads maintained by the Loxahatchee Groves Water Control District, which will also pump up costs for the town.

At 2.6 mills, the owner of a 5-acre homestead valued at $145,000 will pay $377.22 in ad valorem town taxes in fiscal year 2017, compared with $256.27 in fiscal year 2016 for a property valued at $142,561.

The town recently adopted a slightly higher solid waste budget, although the assessment rate will remain unchanged at $256.27 by absorbing the difference to residents but not commercial enterprises. It will be the third year that the town has had no increase in the solid waste assessment. From 2007 to 2017, the solid waste cost for a single-family property in the town has decreased by $116.46.

Town Manager Bill Underwood pointed out at a recent meeting that although the total taxable value of property in Loxahatchee Groves went up, it is still about 20 percent lower than 2008’s record high.

Underwood noted that the council resisted raising taxes when the economy was at its lowest.

Since 2008, property taxes fell from 1.5 mills to 1.2 mills in 2012, where it remained at or near the rollback rate until 2016, when it was raised to 1.4718, and remained through 2017.

If the proposed budget is approved, the ad valorem tax paid to the town will jump from $361,093 in fiscal year 2017 to $727,070 in fiscal year 2018.

The total proposed budget for fiscal year 2017-18 is about $13 million, which also reflects inclusion of the $6 million bond approved by voters, which was moved into the capital improvement fund.

With the exception of the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office budget, which is jumping from about $294,000 to $612,000 annually and would put full-time deputies in the town 24 hours a day, other town departments are looking at fairly nominal increases for fiscal year 2018, Underwood said.

The town management department budget will be $352,653, planning and zoning will be $195,924, legal services will be $120,000, code enforcement will be $129,380, non-departmental appropriations will be $126,080, the town council will be $92,150 and general government will be $137,770.

Fund appropriations will be $5,630,000 (42 percent) for the capital improvement fund, $5,414,567 (40 percent) for the transportation fund, $1,808,667 (13 percent) for the general fund, $220,000 (2 percent) for the infrastructure sales tax and $455,255 (3 percent) for the solid waste fund.

General fund estimated revenue is expected to be $727,057 (40 percent) from ad valorem taxes; $374,406 (21 percent) from public service taxes; $354,514 (20 percent) from intergovernmental funds; $268,780 (15 percent) from permits, fees and special assessments; $38,500 (2 percent) from charges for services; and $20,000 (1 percent) from fines and forfeitures.

The town will transfer $100,165 from the general fund’s non-departmental fund to the solid waste fund to offset the anticipated increases, rather than pass on the increases to taxpayers. Transportation fund revenues are improved with a $16,257 increase to $414,567.

The town will see $5 million from the recent bond approval for road improvements, and will pay a total of $308,000 in interest and the cost of issuing the debt. A transfer of $4.8 million will be made to the capital improvement fund for road construction.

An estimated $213,000 is expected from the sales tax infrastructure fund, which will be appropriated for drainage and new road improvements to be identified by the council.

Non-motorized trail improvements are also planned, at a budgeted cost of $200,000.