Palm Beach County sales tax rate to rise to 7 percent


Palm Beach County’s sales tax rate will rise to 7 percent next year after voters approved an increase to send more money to the county’s public schools and municipal governments.

>>Read: Live Election Coverage

The sales tax hike — from 6 percent to 7 percent — will last a decade and is expected to generate an extra $2.7 billion for fixing schools, roads and bridges and covering new construction projects and technology purchases.

>>Marco Rubio wins U.S. Senate in Florida

Years in the making, the referendum was brought to voters by the county commission and county school board, with support from several major business groups and public-sector unions and little organized opposition.

Government leaders argued the tax increase was necessary to fix a backlog of problems that began to pile up during the Great Recession. Much money is also slated to go to new projects that governments say they can’t afford within their existing budgets.

>>Medical marijuana amendment passes in Fla.

>>Solar amendment fails to pass

The referendum’s passage was greeted by government leaders with gratitude and vows that they would be good stewards of the money.

“I’m very happy that the community has stepped up in support of public schools,” Schools Superintendent Robert Avossa said. “The need is real.”

County Administrator Verdenia Baker said that the results showed that county residents understood the need to invest in key county assets.

“We need to maintain our infrastructure, maintain our way of life,” she said. “We will be a good steward of the taxpayers’ dollars.”

Half of the money — $1.3 billion — will go to the school district, which says the vast majority would be used to repair and upgrade school campuses.

The other half will be split between the county government and the county’s 39 cities and towns. The county will take 30 percent and the municipalities would split the other 20 percent based on their respective populations.

The county government plans to spend its share — $810 million — largely to tackle a backlog of needed repairs to roads, bridges, government buildings and other facilities.

But, like the school district, the county government also plans new projects, including new parks, buildings, streetlights, sidewalks, sheriff’s office substations and a homeless shelter.

The county’s 39 municipalities will spend their $540 million on a mix of infrastructure projects, with each city determining how to spend its share.

The proposal stirred opposition among some voters, many of whom criticized it for being regressive, meaning it affects the poor at a disproportionate rate.

But it faced no organized opposition. The tax increase was officially backed by government worker unions and prominent business groups, including the Economic Council of Palm Beach County, which says it spent nearly $250,000 promoting it.

The sales tax hike will last for a maximum of 10 years. But it could expire sooner if the $2.7 billion target is reached more quickly than expected, something that could happen if sales in the county exceed projections over the next decade.

Avossa said that while he was pleased to see voters endorse greater investment in the county’s public schools, he said the fact that nearly 44 percent of voters opposed it showed that there is too little public confidence in the school district’s spending.

“There’s still a lot of people that need to see better value in their investment in the public schools,” he said.


Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

NEW: How to register for Race for the Cure this week in Wellington
NEW: How to register for Race for the Cure this week in Wellington

Want to register for this year’s Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure but not sure how to do it? The organization will have registration pop-ups throughout the county, including one in Wellington, ahead of the Jan. 27 race. Registration fees start at $10 for children, $35 for untimed participants and $40 for time participants. You also can register...
NEW: Minto donates $75,000 to Seminole Ridge home-building program
NEW: Minto donates $75,000 to Seminole Ridge home-building program

Seminole Ridge High School’s Weitz Construction Academy has started building its seventh home for Habitat for Humanity, and the program is getting some help from a new partner. Minto Foundation Inc. – a charitable arm of Minto Communities, the developer behind the new city of Westlake – recently donated $75,000 to the academy and...
Kristen Bell mocks Melania Trump during SAG Awards opening monologue
Kristen Bell mocks Melania Trump during SAG Awards opening monologue

Host Kristen Bell kicked off the 24th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards with a brief but punchy monologue that included a subtle joke at first lady Melania Trump’s expense. “There has never been a host for this awards show before,” Bell said. “First time. First person. First lady! I honestly never thought I would grow...
Alison Brie weighs in on sexual misconduct allegations against brother-in-law James Franco
Alison Brie weighs in on sexual misconduct allegations against brother-in-law James Franco

E!’s red carpet coverage of the 24th annual Screen Actors Guild awards got off to an awkward start when host Giuliana Rancic asked nominee Alison Brie a surprise question about the sexual misconduct allegations against her brother-in-law, James Franco. Brie is married to Franco’s brother, Dave Franco, who appears in “The...
Delray Beach residents homeless after fire
Delray Beach residents homeless after fire

Residents of a Delray Beach duplex are without a place to live after a fire swept through one side of their building in the 200 block of Southwest Fourth Avenue Sunday afternoon. “Heavy flames” were shooting from one of the units when firefighters arrived shortly before 3 p.m., according to Capt. Kevin Saxton of Delray Beach Fire Rescue...
More Stories