A slight decrease to the property tax rate was approved at Tuesday’s Jupiter council meeting.
A home with an assessed value of $350,000 and a homestead exemption of $50,000 this year paid a property tax bill of about $753. That same property owner’s bill under the same evaluation next year would be $738.
But even with the property rate decrease, the property owner could pay more. That is because property tax values in Jupiter increased more than eight percent this year compared to last year, from $8.9 billion last year to about $9.6 billion this year.
“We are keeping pace with a growing community,” said Town Manager Andy Lukasik.
The property tax rate does not include debt service, school, fire-rescue and county taxes and special taxing districts, such as the Jupiter Inlet District.
The new operating budget that starts Oct. 1 was increased to $83.4 million and includes:
* About $850,000 for merit pay increases for employees.
* 14 new town positions costing about $500,000. (Three for the water department; three camp counselors; two for police; two for public works and one each for code compliance, recreation, building and community relations.) The town has about 370 full-time employees, including police.
* About a four percent increase in water utility rates approved by Jupiter council.
Five new police officers were added last year, boosting the number of sworn Jupiter police officers from 111 to 116. The current police budget is about $20 million.
The town expects a 13 percent increase for demand for police service in the next five years, due to expected population increases and more commercial and entertainment establishments coming to Jupiter, according to Jupiter records.
The vote was 4-1, with the lone dissent from Councilman Jim Kuretski, who noted the annual budget has increased the past five years in a row.
“It’s time to let up on the annual increases,” said Kuretski.