Published On: Mon, Jun 14th, 2010

Legal questions squelch plan to hike sales tax to cover county fire service

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WEST PALM BEACH – A proposal by Palm Beach County Commissioners to increase the county’s sales tax to 7 percent to help pay for fire-rescue service was yanked off the table a day after discussion began.

At its June 8 meeting, commissioners discussed placing a referendum on the November 2010 ballot to allow for a one-cent sales surcharge to pay for fire-rescue services in lieu of ad valorem taxes. The issue was to be discussed again at the June 15 meeting.

But County Administrator Bob Weisman fired off an email June 9 saying there were too many unanswered questions about the plan. “This means it will not be possible to implement the fire rescue surtax prior to 2012 and only after further consideration by the state legislature,” Weisman said.

Commissioners on June 8 voted 4-3 to ask voters to approve the sales tax increase to help cover the cost of fire and rescue service. District 4 Commissioner Steven Abrams, who represents Boca Raton, voted against it while District 5 Commissioner Burt Aaronson voted in favor. Also casting “no” votes were Commissioners Pricilla Taylor and Jeff Koons.

In other business at the June 8 meeting, commissioners conducted the following businesses:

Legislative Affairs – received a final report on key local bills and funding priorities and appropriations approved during the 2010 Florida Legislative Session; also recognized outgoing Rep. Mary Brandenburg and Rep. Carl Domino, and PBC Delegation Chair Rep. Maria Sachs.

Inspector General – approved a four-year contract with Sheryl G. Steckler to become Palm Beach County’s first inspector general. The starting salary is $150,000 per year with benefits similar to those of other county employees.

Economic Development – approved tax credits and job growth incentives totaling $31,000 for UTC Fire & Security, Inc. The city of Boca Raton will match the amount. UTCFS is constructing a 30,000-square-foot research and development and test facility to develop environmentally friendly, resource-efficient fire protection systems, creating 22 new jobs and retaining 111 existing jobs.

Boys & Girls Clubs – approved an agreement to donate an 11.8-acre portion of the county’s Haverhill Linear Park property to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Palm Beach County. The land, located near Drexel Road south of Belvedere Road, will be used to construct a clubhouse facility.

Land Donation – approved two land conveyances adjacent to Boca Rio Road in Boca Raton: a 5-acre parcel for construction and operation of a Humane Society animal shelter and pet cemetery, and a 13.76-acre parcel for expansion of The Haven, which provides staffed residential behavioral health and education program for at-risk children.

Environmental Resources Management – postponed accepting a cash buyout of $85,000 for termination of a .99-acre conservation easement at the Whiteside Industrial Park.

Street Lights – approved an alternate design standard to allow for reduced illumination on county-owned rural-residential roads at the discretion of the county engineer.