Royal Palm Council Approves Plan To Keep Tax Rate Unchanged

The Royal Palm Beach Village Council.

The Royal Palm Beach Village Council held a special meeting on Thursday, July 14. At the meeting, the council gave tentative approval to next year’s proposed village tax rate of 1.92 mills and scheduled public hearings for Thursday, Sept. 8 and Thursday, Sept. 15 to finalize the tax rate and next year’s budget.

At the meeting, the council also gave preliminary approval to changes to the village’s existing floodplain management code.

Addressing the council, Village Manager Ray Liggins provided some context for keeping the tax rate unchanged at 1.92 mills, which has been the village’s tax rate consistently for years.

“The main reason is because we don’t use our millage rate, and the taxes we collect, to balance our budget, nor have we for the last 15 years. Eleven of those years, we used the proceeds from the utility sale,” Liggins said, referring to the sale of the village’s water utility to Palm Beach County. “This year, we are using ARPA [American Rescue Plan Act] money to balance the budget. We are fortunate when we sold the utility, and we invested those monies. We’ve been able to spend almost $35 million, but we still have $80 million in reserves. The policy of this council is to try to keep the reserves for as long as we can. We are doing it with a tax base that isn’t all that wealthy. We have stretched the proceeds over the last 15 to 16 years, while continuing to increase services. The reason for not lowering the rate, even though assessed values have gone up, is the idea of continuing these reserves as long as we can into the future.”

Turning to the updates regarding floodplain management, the ordinance spans nearly 18 pages, and Village Engineer Chris Marsh addressed the council virtually to summarize the changes.

“This is a housekeeping item. It will help preserve our CRS rating and make us consistent with what the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) requires,” Marsh said.

CRS is the Community Rating System in place under the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).

“There is a good item in here as it relates to flood protection,” Marsh said. “It gives us the ability to look at things basin by basin, and those flood elevations, and force property owners to be a foot above that.”

The update is necessary for Royal Palm Beach to maintain its current certification and 20 percent discount. If it did not pass, FEMA’s rating of Royal Palm Beach will decrease. No negative impacts on current structures are expected, since the ordinance is directed toward new structures only.

The council unanimously approved the first reading. The second reading will take place on Aug. 18.

In other business:

• The council approved a variance application for an existing gazebo located within an easement. The owner, Myrione Pierre-Louis, purchased the property with a shed and gazebo already in place and was unaware that the structures lacked the necessary permits. She has already removed the shed and will go through the process of getting approval for the gazebo now that the variance was approved.

• The council unanimously approved renaming the entire span of Park Road North and Park Road South, which runs from Sparrow Drive to Crestwood Blvd., as simply “Park Road North.” This does not affect residents or any buildings in the area, as there were no addresses on Park Road South, only Park Road North. This change will avoid confusion in the future.

• Two regular agenda items were postponed to the Aug. 18 council meeting. One on the merging of four vacant parcels of land along State Road 7 into one plat was delayed for a second time. A variance application by Glen Weldon & Associates regarding a nonconforming City Mattress sign on State Road 7 was also tabled until Aug. 18 to allow the applicant an opportunity to provide a full presentation to the council after some technical difficulties. Neither village staff nor the Planning & Zoning Commission recommend approval of the requested sign variance. The sign was recently installed before gaining the necessary approvals.