Palm Beach Gardens not in favor of sales tax increase

A penny sales tax increase that would be a boon for other municipalities is more like a punishment for poor people, high-earners and families Palm Beach Gardens officials said Thursday as they voted to oppose a proposed one penny increase in the county’s sales tax.

The City Council voted not to sign an interlocal agreement to advance the proposal that would increase the sales tax for 10 years. A group of cities and towns representing more than 50 percent of residents living in the county’s municipalities must sign on for the plan to get on the ballot.

Councilman Bert Premuroso said the city has strong reserves and a good credit rating. Officials have lowered the tax rate for two years. Palm Beach Gardens pays for building projects with money it has or low interest loans.

“As I look at our perspective here in the city, it doesn’t make sense for residents,” he said.

Increasing the sales tax to seven cents on the dollar would generate $2.7 billion over 10 years for upgrades to roads, bridges, schools and county buildings. The plan also calls for directing $121 million to cultural projects and $40 million for economic development.

Palm Beach Gardens would receive about $2.8 million in one year and $28 million over the 10 years. Projects could include replacing stormwater structures as needed, resurfacing roads and improving Johnson Dairy Road and North Military Trail.

Vice Mayor Eric Jablin said he can’t support it because it’s going to hit poor people more than others.

Premuroso used the example that a family that spends $40,000 a year on taxable items is going to spend an additional $400. City residents with a larger income than those in other municipalities are also probably spending more.

Councilman David Levy, who wavered back and forth, eventually dissented. He said the county is going to get the money through a bond issue, ad valorem taxes or the sales tax increase. The city can get the sales tax money and find a creative way to give it back to taxpayers.

Premuroso said County Commissioner Hal Valeche, also a former city councilman, had a good idea when he suggested the county issue a bond to pay for specific projects. If the county had a 10-year bond, the rate should go down or the county should be able to pay it off earlier as it adds new homes to the tax rolls, Premuroso said.

The county has a superior credit rating, and bond costs and rates are low.

“I don’t know why we would not take advantage of that,” he said.

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