By Steve Plunkett
Gulf Stream town commissioners may decide to raise property taxes up to 7.1 percent for the coming budget year, mostly to rebuild reserves used last year for the underground utilities project.
Commissioners set a maximum rate of $3.10 per $1,000 of taxable value, a rate that can be lowered but not raised in subsequent meetings. A home assessed at $1 million after exemptions last year paid $2,927 in town property taxes. If that home’s value rose the average 1.1 percent of all property in Gulf Stream, it would owe $3,134, or $207 more, this year.
Town Manager William Thrasher first suggested a rate of $3.01 per $1,000, which he said was enough to pay for design work to expand Town Hall and to buy Ford Explorer SUVs to replace aging police cars.
With upswing in property values, “I do not believe we need to be fearful of our costs,” Thrasher said.
“Don’t we want to make that a little higher than what this is?” Commissioner Garrett Dering asked, urging his colleagues to propose the $3.10 rate. Thrasher said the higher figure would give commissioners about $60,000 extra.
Thrasher’s proposed budget also calls for a 2 percent raise for town employees and new software for police to track cases. Any money left over from the $50,000 earmarked for designing a larger Town Hall would go into reserves, he said.
Thrasher said Town Hall would be expanded on the west side of the building to provide more room. “There’s no place for storage, there’s no place for records. If you walk into any office … you’ll see that there are plans everywhere,” he said.
Thrasher also budgeted $428,197 to pay for fire and rescue services from Delray Beach, which includes payment since March for serving the unincorporated pocket annexed that month.
“This is a combination of catch-up and then also our regular contract including the annexed area,” Thrasher said.
The annexed area will mean about $208,000 in additional tax revenue if the maximum rate is adopted.
Gulf Stream’s tax rate was $3.10 for the 2007 budget year but was held under $3 for the next five budgets, according to Thrasher’s proposal. It hit $4.09 in 1998.
The proposed 2013 budget includes $14,000 for a study of how Gulf Stream and other coastal towns might share the cost of providing their own fire-rescue service. A consultant would not be hired unless the other towns pitch in. Commissioners will consider the budget again at their Aug. 10 regular meeting, then hold public hearings on the budget at 5:01 p.m. Sept. 14 and 25.