Preliminary Tax, Assessment Rates Unchanged In Lox Groves

Starting up its annual budget process, the Loxahatchee Groves Town Council set its preliminary tax and assessments rates for the upcoming fiscal year at a meeting on Tuesday, June 6. The preliminary rates were set at the same level as the current year.

The ad valorem property tax rate was set at 3.0 mills, while the assessment rate for drainage and roads was set at $200 per unit and the assessment rate for solid waste collection was set at $400 per unit.

The preliminary rates will be reported to the Palm Beach County Property Appraiser’s Office as the town’s Truth-in-Millage (TRIM) rates. Once reported, the rate can be lowered during the budget process, but cannot be raised. The budget will not be finalized until meetings in September, just before the next fiscal year begins Oct. 1.

Rising property values, however, mean that Loxahatchee Groves taxpayers could pay more in ad valorem property taxes next year. However, increases would be small for properties with homestead exemptions.

The current estimated total taxable value for the town, released earlier this month by the Property Appraiser’s Office, is $511,972,616. That represents an increase of 15.82 percent over last year’s valuation, which is slightly above the county’s overall increase of 13.36 percent. That number could change when the final taxable value estimate is released on July 1.

“Our taxable value went up to over half of a billion dollars now, so that is a real milestone. That’s taxable value, not market value,” Town Manager Francine Ramaglia said. “We will reconsider this again through the budget workshops.”

Given the 15.82 percent increase in property values, the town’s roll-back rate, which would generate the same net tax dollars as the current year, is 2.59 mills.

“These are the maximum rates. As we go into our preparation for the budget, these rates can come down, but they will not go up,” Mayor Laura Danowski said.

Setting the property tax rate at 3.0 mills was approved 4-0 with Vice Mayor Robert Shorr absent. The town’s two required official budget hearings are set for Sept. 5 and Sept. 19.

Sitting as the dependent Loxahatchee Groves Water Control District Board of Supervisors, the council set the annual assessment for drainage and roads at $200 per unit. It was approved 3-1 with Danowski opposed.

“This is the same that it has been for the past five years,” Ramaglia said. “We will be doing the budget and having a number of workshops over the summer before the final approval on Sept. 5.”

The vote to set the assessment rate for solid waste collection and recycling services at $400 per unit was 4-0, which is the same rate the town adopted last year with its new trash collection vendor. That rate keeps the collection services unchanged. However, the town is in discussions with the vendor regarding possible changes.

“This rate is $50 less than it was at the time we switched from Waste Pro to Coastal,” Ramaglia said. “We will be coming back to you with other considerations with regard to solid waste at the next workshop.”

Councilwoman Marge Herzog asked if the $400 number includes yard waste collection, and Ramglia said that it does, but changes to yard waste collection are among the items up for discussion.

“I did get a first pass of numbers from Coastal for once-a-week consideration, and, well, he’s sharpening his pencil,” Ramaglia said.

Ramaglia added that the town has had discussions with several other companies on the issue of vegetative waste but did not get much interest. “We are trying to look at options as to the way that we do our collection and how we might look at lowering our price with Coastal,” she said.