You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to myPalmBeachPost.com

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.

GREAT REASONS TO SUBSCRIBE TODAY!

  • IN-DEPTH REPORTING
  • INTERACTIVE STORYTELLING
  • NEW TOPICS & COVERAGE
  • ePAPER
X

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and bonus content- exclusively for subscribers. Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks

X

Welcome to myPalmBeachPost.com

This subscriber-only site gives you exclusive access to breaking news, in-depth coverage, exclusive interactives and bonus content.

You can read free articles of your choice a month that are only available on myPalmBeachPost.com.

Official: Tax Mar-a-Lago owner to help pay for cost of Trump visits


President Donald Trump has taken to calling his Mar-a-Lago spread on Palm Beach the “winter White House.”

Palm Beach County Commissioner Dave Kerner wonders if it should have another name: “municipal service benefit unit.”

Kerner’s name is far less catchy than Trump’s, but it could give the county a way to impose a special tax on Trump to reimburse the county for the millions it has shelled out for roadway management and security assistance during the president’s frequent trips here.

The tax would not be a property tax, Kerner said. Instead, it would be a tax pegged to the value of any “special benefit” the county has provided to Mar-a-Lago’s owner — Trump.

» RELATED: Trump returning this weekend for fifth stay since inauguration

At Kerner’s request, County Attorney Denise Nieman is researching the idea of the municipal service benefit unit, which Kerner said has not yet been used in the way he envisions.

The commissioner and other county officials are increasingly frustrated with federal inaction on their requests for reimbursement.

In mid-February, Sheriff Ric Bradshaw estimated that the cost of providing help during Trump visits had reached about $1.4 million.

An analysis provided by PBSO on Tuesday, which included non-overtime costs for Trump’s three trips in February and the one earlier this month, included about $570,000 in costs.

County Commissioner Mary Lou Berger said she, Bradshaw and Assistant County Administrator Todd Bonlarron recently held a conference call with officials from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the Secret Service, the Congressional Budget Office and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to make the case for reimbursement.

“I was very firm and to the point that we expected this money to be reimbursed, that it shouldn’t be this difficult for them to figure out,” Bradshaw said in describing the call.

Berger said she was discouraged.

“They were polite, but that’s where they stopped,” Berger said. “I did not get a lot of encouragement.”

Bradshaw said federal officials initially seemed uncertain about how to go about reimbursing the county.

“Homeland Security, they don’t have a line item in the budget that represents reimbursement to local governments,” Bradshaw said.

Unlike other county officials, Bradshaw said he is confident the federal government will reimburse the county.

“My sense is it’ll happen at some point,” the sheriff said. “This is a typical Washington, bureaucratic ‘we get to it when we get to it.’ At some point, it’ll work out.”

For many years, communities across the country have been happy to have the president visit. It’s usually a special occasion. Bunting is unfurled and marching bands play.

But Trump’s trips to Palm Beach County have long since eclipsed occasional.

“We’re getting to the point where he’s governing from here,” Kerner said.

The county is conducting a study to determine the costs and benefits of Trump’s frequent visits.

Meanwhile, PBSO will continue to provide roadway management and security assistance.

Bradshaw said he can’t simply refuse to provide that assistance as a way of forcing the feds to pay up. PBSO isn’t just working for Trump during his trips here, Bradshaw explained.

“I cannot just tell the Secret Service or someone else that’s coming who could be in danger that I’m not going to provide the protection,” he said. “It’s a danger to the public. I can’t allow the roadways to become clogged and dysfunctional. I have a responsibility to you, the public, to make sure this thing is handled correctly.”

Separately from the quest for reimbursement, the county has been working to help Lantana’s airport, which has been effectively shut down during Trump’s trips by federally mandated temporary flight restrictions.

Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association President Mark Baker has estimated that the airport and its 250 employees account for $27 million in local economic impact.

Kerner said he had a conference call with the Secret Service to explore ways to modify the flight restrictions.

The commissioner said it wasn’t exactly a two-way exchange.

“They said, ‘This isn’t a negotiation. Let me tell you why it’s going to be this way.’” Kerner said.

Kerner said he no longer has any hope that the temporary flight restrictions will be altered in a way that helps Lantana’s airport.

“The Lantana airport will be shut down any time the president is in town,” Kerner said. “We’ve bent over backwards. I get it. The president’s safety is paramount.”

But ensuring that safety will come at a high cost for the airport and its employees.

“It has been devastating,” Kerner said. “It is going to be devastating.”



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Politics

Negron warns against Florida universities overusing online classes

One of the benefits of an expansion of online classes in Florida universities is that it gives students more flexibility in balancing their academic loads with extracurricular activities like jobs, student government or clubs. It has helped a University of Central Florida senior devote the majority of her time this spring to her extracurricular activity...
Kelly Slater wave pool creeps forward despite Jupiter Farms opposition
Kelly Slater wave pool creeps forward despite Jupiter Farms opposition

Jupiter Farms residents did all they could Thursday to wipe out the idea of a surfing ranch in western Palm Beach County, but the plan is still on the drawing board. Commissioners directed county staff to examine a possible land use change that would allow a firm affiliated with surfing legend Kelly Slater to build a surfing ranch with a 2,000-foot...
Divided Florida Senate backs ending ‘liquor wall’
Divided Florida Senate backs ending ‘liquor wall’

A heavily lobbied proposal to knock down a Depression-era ban on liquor being sold alongside groceries narrowly survived the Senate on Thursday, after a passionate debate that included some opponents warning the change could make alcohol more accessible to — or even “kill” — children. The so-called “liquor wall” ...
Florida Senate OKs bill to expand religious expression in schools
Florida Senate OKs bill to expand religious expression in schools

A bill whose sponsor says it is aimed at protecting displays of religious faith in public schools passed the Senate on nearly party-line vote Thursday, while a more-limited version moved toward the House floor. The Senate voted 23-13 to approve its bill (SB 436), after a sometimes-emotional debate. Sen. Daphne Campbell, D-Miami, joined Republicans...
County smooths way for western development with zoning framework OK
County smooths way for western development with zoning framework OK

Palm Beach County commissioners approved a new zoning framework Thursday, smoothing the path for a pair of development projects that would add a combined 4,930 homes in the booming west-central corridor of the county. Approval of the new framework, which creates something called the Western Communities Residential Overlay, disappointed environmentalists...
More Stories