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North Fire Station #2

Our Town with William Kelly: New town budget includes lowest tax rate in decades, $5.5 million for new North Fire Station

The Town Council has approved a $89.1 million spending plan for the coming budget year that is 10 percent larger than this year’s $80.9 million budget.

At a public hearing Thursday, the council also lowered the property tax rate from $2.99 per $1,000 of taxable value to $2.90 per $1,000. That is the town’s lowest tax rate since at least 1989, according to the Finance Department.

“Town Manager Kirk Blouin and his team have done a great job of managing the budget and watching the dollars and cents to protect our residents,” Mayor Danielle Moore said Friday.

Under the new rate, a property owner with a homestead exemption will pay $54 less per $1 million of value, according to the Finance Department. A non-homestead owner will pay $136 more per $1 million.

The town can lower the tax rate yet generate more tax revenue because of a steep climb in property values. Taxable property values in the town climbed 8.13 percent over the last year, according to Palm Beach County Property Appraiser Dorothy Jacks’ office. Values were up $1.6 billion to a total of $21.7 billion.

Thursday’s hearing was the second of two legally required public hearings on the budget and property tax rate for fiscal year 2021-22, which begins Oct. 1. The first hearing was Sept. 13.

The lower tax rate will create $1 million in tax relief, when compared to this year’s rate, while generating a surplus of $1.7 million.

The council in July decided to appropriate $1.5 million of the surplus and $4 million from reserves to reconstruct the North Fire Station, which has a leaky roof and mold intrusion.

Moore said she is meeting with local legislative representatives to discuss the town’s application for state aid to partially offset the $5.5 million cost of rebuilding the north fire station.

The budget also includes funding for a 3.2 percent cost-of-living increase for town employees and the rental of trailers to house the firefighters at an interim site while the new fire station is being built. Those costs were covered in part by an increase in parking meter rates that will generate an additional $364,290, according to Finance Director Jane Le Clainche.

The location of the interim North Fire Station has not been decided, Public Works Director Paul Brazil said.

“We’re working through the alternatives and will make a recommendation to the town manager,” he said.

The town collects about 18 percent of the property taxes paid on the island. The remainder goes to Palm Beach County, the county school district and other taxing districts.