By Mary Thurwachter
Tax rates haven’t been raised in Lantana for 11 years and that won’t change this year.
Council members set the preliminary tax rate at $3.24 per $1,000 of a home’s assessed value at their July 23 meeting.
“We’ve been through the worst (of the recession),” Mayor Dave Stewart said, expressing confidence in the town manager’s handling of the budget and adding that the town had sufficient reserves.
“This is not a good time to raise taxes on constituents,” council member Tom Deringer said. The town will make adjustments, he said. “We need three police cars, we’ll buy two.”
But council members Cindy Austino and Lynn Moorhouse voted against the proposed rate, arguing that it should be set higher this year.
“Everything else has gone up,” Moorhouse said. “I just don’t think it’s a reasonable end. It’s hard to let everything run down and fix it.”
Employees haven’t had a cost of living raise since 2007, although each received a one-time $1,000 cash payment last year.
Moorhouse said he was concerned about morale. “When you compare us to other towns, we’re not at the top of the pay list, we’re not even in the middle,” he said.
Austino said the town needed to look very closely at every expense. She said the proposed rate should be set higher, adding that it could always come down.
“If we’re gonna do it (raise taxes), this is the year to do it,” she said. “We can always lower it later, but we need to leave that option open.”
She suggested the town consider not replacing the ATV at the beach, a $5,000 expense. “Do we really need it?” she asked. “Our beach area is very small.”
The council voted to let the decision on whether or not to replace the ATV up to Town Manager Deborah Manzo, who will discuss the matter with lifeguards. Lantana will have its first public budget hearing at 6 p.m. Sept. 10. A second hearing will be at 7 p.m. Sept. 19. Both will be held in council chambers.