The Loxahatchee Groves Town Council on Tuesday, July 7 approved the same TRIM (Truth in Millage) rates for next year as the current year, anticipating higher revenue from increased property values to be offset by increased costs due to the virus pandemic.
The resolutions set the ad valorem property tax rate at 3 mills; the roads and drainage assessment at $200 per acre; bond assessments at varied rates to specific property owners depending on the address; and the solid waste assessment at $450 per residence.
Assistant Town Manager Francine Ramaglia said that the council will see the items two more times before the budget is finalized. At that point, they can decrease the rates, but not increase them once the TRIM rates are set.
“What we have in front of us are four resolutions where we are required by Florida Statutes to go ahead and set our maximum rates,” Ramaglia said. “We set it for ad valorem millage, and we also set for all of our special assessments.”
She said COVID-19 has cast a pall on anticipated revenue at least for the coming fiscal year.
“One of the things that we can tell you right now is nobody’s really sure what’s happening with the economy, but it looks like we will take a fairly significant hit on our revenues for this year that we’re in through the end of the year, and we can also expect to see a similar and maybe even more significant reduction next year because these things seem to have a bit of a lag,” Ramaglia said.
She said that estimates by financial experts put the anticipated revenue decrease to be as high as 25 percent, which amounts to a loss of planned revenue for the town to be about $500,000 over the next year and a half.
Ramaglia also pointed out that the town’s reserves are not at the 25 percent level that financiers would look at when considering a bond approval.
She further added that the OGEM (open-graded emulsified mix) paving debt would be paid off in the coming year at a greatly reduced rate due to the council making an early payment of $340,000 recently.
As for the solid waste fund, Ramaglia said that took several hits over the past year with the former hauler walking away from its contract two months early, educational advertising to enable the new hauler and paying for the pickup of illegal dumping. Also troubling for the town is the number of commercial enterprises that have contracts with other haulers and residences that operate commercial enterprises illegally.
The council approved the ad valorem rate unchanged at 3 mills, the OGEM debt, and road and drainage assessments unanimously. The solid waste assessment was approved 4-1 with Councilman Robert Shorr opposed after he made a failed motion to reduce the solid waste fee to $400.
The town must send its tax roll and preliminary rates to the Palm Beach County Tax Collector’s Office by July 24.