By Steve Plunkett
With little discussion, Highland Beach commissioners proposed a 13.9 percent tax increase to finance renovations to Town Hall, repairs to the town’s walk path and provide increased code enforcement.
A residence valued at $500,000 after exemptions this year paid $2,170 in Highland Beach taxes. Assuming its value increased the same as the town’s average 1.4 percent, its owner would pay $2,471 in taxes for the coming year, or $301 more, under the proposal.
“In the future we can come down to whatever millage rate we want, but by law, should we set one lower than what we wind up approving on the budget, we would have to go out to each individual voter and tell them that we needed to raise that millage rate,” said Vice Mayor Ron Brown, who recommended setting the rate at $4.87 per $1,000 of taxable value.
“We have a lot of work ahead of us,” Commissioner Louis Stern said. “Without our hands being tied we can always come down, and I like that feeling that we’re not strapped.”
Town Manager Kathleen Weiser had asked for a tax rate of at least $4.70 per $1,000 of taxable value to allow her to balance operating expenses with tax revenue and use $1 million in reserves for capital projects.
The town used $710,000 from its reserves this year to pay mostly for operating expenses.
The proposed budget for the coming year calls for the Police Department to retire one patrol car without replacing it and cuts money for books at the library by 20 percent, to $60,000.
Commissioners set a budget workshop for 4:30 p.m. Aug. 7 and a second workshop, if needed, at 1:30 p.m. Aug. 21. Public hearings will be at 5:01 p.m. Sept. 7 and Sept. 20.