Palmetto Bay council votes to hold tax rate the same for upcoming fiscal year

07/18/2014 3:49 PM

07/18/2014 3:50 PM

The Palmetto Bay council voted earlier this month to advertise the same tax rate it has had since 2009 for the upcoming fiscal year: $2.447 per $1,000 in assessed property value. The budget year starts Oct. 1.

This vote is just the first step in the budget process, and doesn’t set the tax rate – it advertises it for public review. During the budget process, which ends Sept. 30, the village may lower the tax rate initially advertised, but barring extenuating circumstances, it cannot raise it.

Palmetto Bay contracts with Miami-Dade County police for police services, and Village Manager Ron Williams told the council members before their vote that the outcome of labor negotiations between the police department and Miami-Dade could, in a worst-case scenario, amount to an added expense of roughly $800,000 for the village.

Williams suggested the possibility of advertising a maximum rate of $2.772, which would be lowered in September back down to $2.447 if the added police bill were more manageable.

“Obviously it’s been a rate that works well for this village in terms of income and expenses, it’s just that there are some things that are happening at the county level that effects our largest line item that I wanted us to be aware of,” Williams said.

Council member Joan Lindsay spoke in favor bumping up the maximum rate, saying it gave residents the option to choose between higher taxes and the same level of service, or lower taxes and leaner services, if the worst-case scenario were to manifest. Council member Tim Schaffer suggested postponing the vote to later that month to get resident feedback.

Both Lindsay and Schaffer mentioned the effect upcoming elections might be having on their colleague’s votes.

“Of course, we’re in campaign season, so saying ‘let’s put the maximum up, even though we’re not necessarily going to do that,’ that could turn into a major spin,” Schaffer said. Lindsay is up for reelection this November but has not yet filed to run. Schaffer isn’t up for reelection until 2016.

Both Mayor Shelley Stanczyk and council member Patrick Fiore – who are competing for the mayor’s seat this November – criticized the county for allegedly pawning off costs to cities.

“It’s a symptom of what big government has been doing to the municipalities in the last two or three years – they’ve been pulling back and overcharging us,” Stanczyk said.

A vote to change the advertised tax rate to $2.772 was rejected 3-1, with Lindsay voting in favor. A subsequent vote to keep the tax rate at $2.447 passed 3-1, with Lindsay again in the minority. Vice-Mayor John DuBois was absent from the meeting.

As required by law, the village has set two public hearings for the budget, one on Sept. 8, the other on Sept. 22. Both will be held at 7 p.m. at the municipal center at 9705 E. Hibiscus St.

Residents will be reminded of those hearing dates and the proposed tax rate in the state-mandated letter known as the “TRIM Notice” mailed out in August. It lists the assessed and taxable value of your home as well as the proposed tax rates for the village, county, school board and other local agencies and all relevant public hearings.

Williams says that a detailed overview of the village’s proposed budget will also be ready in August.

A home’s assessed value isn’t the same as its market value, which means that the overall decline in market property values in Palmetto Bay this year won’t necessarily translate to a lower village tax bill.

According to village Finance Director Desmond Chin, the average taxable value – that’s the assessed value, minus exemptions – of a Palmetto Bay home this year was $245,861. That means a village tax bill of $601 this year for the average homeowner. Last year, the average home was valued at $236,599, and the average bill amounted to $579.

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