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Palm Coast Thursday, Sep. 21, 2017 12 months ago

City passes tax increase to fund more deputies, streetlights

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The new millage rate will be $4.5937 per $1,000 of taxable value.
by: Jonathan Simmons News Editor

Palm Coast residents will see about a 14% tax increase for the fiscal year starting Oct. 1 as the city prepares for the hiring of new Sheriff's Office deputies and the addition of more street lights.

The city's total proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year is $156,442,639.

"The two major causes of increase are basically under one umbrella: Safety, public safety," City Councilman Steve Nobile said at a budget meeting Sept. 20. "The majority of it is not niceties, it is really to serve the public safety."

The new deputies are expected to cost the city about $550,000.

The new millage rate will be $4.5937 per $1,000 of taxable value. That is 13.8% higher than the rolled back rate — the rate which would generate the same amount of revenue as last year — of $4.04. Last year's millage rate was $4.245 per $1,000, but property value increases and new construction has raised local taxable value.

The city is handling about 60-70 permits a month, City Manger Jim Landon told the council. During the peak before the recession, it was about 600 per month, "But 60 a month is 500 a year; you're starting to talk sustainable growth kind of numbers, and those numbers have been going up," Landon said. "So it's, right now, it’s all very positive signs. And the retail, the commercial and even businesses, you’re seeing construction going up every week."

Some residents did not support the tax increase — including former city councilman Alan Peterson. 

"Your final result really disappoints me," he told the council. "A 13% increase in the millage rate is extremely disappointing. Admittedly, some of that perhaps will be offset by new construction, but that means that the residents of Palm Coast are facing a 13% tax increase, and I would have hoped that somewhere along the line you would have been able to squeeze out or reduce some of the nice-to-have items and concentrated only on the need-to-haves. ... A 12 or 13% increase in taxes is really, in my opinion, excessive, particularly since wages have not risen. ... It is really disappointing that you couldn’t have squeezed the budget down a little bit more than this — what I consider to be an extremely high increase in the tax rate."

One attendee who spoke during the public comment period asked why the city needed to raise taxes so much when it's spending money to have work crews maintain yellow flowers planted on Belle Terre Parkway.

"That is what we're known for — our beautiful medians, and that is one of the reason why a lot of people live here," Landon said. "And yes, they do take maintenance. We don’t have everybody in every median every day, but we do have people on Belle Terre and State Road 100 and Palm Coast Parkway. … We do maintain them."

Nobile said that the bulk of the increase would fund public safety initiatives that the public has asked for.

City Finance Director Chris Quinn agreed. 

"Those have been two of the loudest things we’ve heard, is more and more street lights, and more police protection," Quinn said. 

The council approved the millage and the budget unanimously.

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