Are you feeling culturally inclined and would like to financially support the arts in Palm Beach County? How about pitching in to help upgrade the public school facilities? You might also want to consider an upgrade to aging infrastructure for Palm Beach County assets. While we’re at it, let’s throw in some cash for Economic Development. As an added touch, we can sprinkle in a little money to pass out to each city in the County.
You can do this, and even more, if you vote in favor of a seventeen percent increase in our current sales tax. Never mind the fact that you are already paying for these items through property taxes. The opportunity to pay more will present itself in the upcoming November election. Funny how those sticky things like asking taxpayers to fork over their hard earned money find their way on the ballot when items of national prominence dominate and may distract the unwitting voter.
The final language for the ballot issue will be determined by two meetings held in May and conducted by Palm Beach County Commissioners. Let’s hope the ballot details are clear and fairly represented, unlike the Palm Beach Economic Forum I attended last week which was more of a pep rally for support rather than a balanced presentation.
The measure is a ten year plan expected to raise 2.7 billion dollars before it expires. The school district would receive almost half of the revenue followed by the County at 27.5 percent, cities 18.5 percent with the remainder going to cultural projects and economic development.
As part of the package there are exemptions: Groceries, baby formula, medicine, school supplies and agricultural equipment all avoid the increased sales tax. Just to show there is something for everyone there’s even a benefit for buyers of a new Bentley as only the first $5,000 of the purchase of “Tangible Personal Property” pays the additional seventeen percent increase.
So, What’s Not to Like?
Consider this: The vast majority of the revenue anticipated from this measure is designated for categories already covered by property taxes. In case you haven’t noticed, property values in Palm Beach County are not only on the rise, they are rising faster than most areas of the United States. All forecasts expect that trend to continue for at least the next several years as boomers retire to the sunshine state and foreigners find comfort in a tax friendly state with great weather. That means that your property taxes will also rise. The point is this; the entities looking for additional revenue already have the additional funding mechanism in the works without a sales tax increase.
Please note that this tax is regressive in nature. This will harm those among us who are least able to afford the added expense. For Boca Residents, and any area that borders a neighboring county, there is the additional consideration of consumers crossing county lines to save meaningful dollars on their purchases. This harms local businesses within Palm Beach County and is counter-productive. How does that equate to economic development?
Knock on wood. The economy in South Florida is better than many parts of the country and improving. What ails our county financially is on the mend and will cure itself in time with present trends.
And Then There’s Politics
At a recent City of Boca Raton City Council meeting, Councilmember Scott Singer brought forth the notion that the City Of Boca take a stand against the increase. This is an example of strong leadership with his constituency’s best interest in mind. Councilmember Robert Weinroth has also publicly stated his opposition to the measure but refuses to take an official stand. However, Mayor Susan Haynie dismissed the idea of taking a stand by claiming “the voters will decide”. There is something afoot here. Mayor Haynie has her eye on higher office. Specifically, she is rumored to covet the County Commission seat now held by Steven Abrams once he is termed out of office in November, 2018. With countywide political aspirations, Mayor Haynie gives the appearance of wanting to appease a potential future constituency (the county at large) rather than representing her current constituency in Boca Raton.
The Bottom Line
Officials at BocaWatch oppose the Sales Tax Referendum as an unnecessary measure that does more harm than good. If you want to encourage economic development, avoid tax increases. Our County’s financial future has rarely looked brighter. The real solution for the objectives of the Palm Beach County initiatives will be found in rising property values. We suggest you save yourself some money and vote NO on any sales tax increase.
My father, rest his soul, told me many years ago as a then soon-to-be, age-eligible voter, “if you have a chance to vote on a tax increase of any kind, always vote NO!” His reasoning was that the tax system at every level of government–city to Federal–will find a way to increase taxes without us making it easy for those in power. And even if well-intentioned initially, the new-found money will somehow find its way into pork barrel projects or redirected from its original purpose. Prime example: SS and Medicare tax being placed in the general U.S. treasury.