What Goes Up Must Come Down…REALLY?  Not the Fire Services Non-Ad Valorem Assessment….

A public hearing on the Fire Services Non-Ad Valorum Assessment rates will be conducted on Monday, September 25, 2017 at 6:00 P.M. in the City Council Chambers, Boca Raton City Hall.  All residents and businesses should pay close attention to the City Council’s action in this matter.

This matter will be presented as Resolution 109-2017 and is accompanied by a September 1, 2017 cover letter from the City Manager to the Mayor and City Council where the Manager ‘recommends approval’ setting (raising) the rates once again for the Fire Assessment on all improved properties within the City.  This recommendation is supported by years of assessment and court rulings establishing the legal validity of such a funding mechanism.  There is no argument there.

Where there is an argument is that these fees seem never to be ending.  They have a life of their own with an upward spiral of an endless nature.   Of course there is always rationalization and ample justification for such charges.  The resolution is rift with appendix containing statistics that takes a scholar to comprehend.  What is striking is that the residential assessment since inception has risen from some $20.00 to a proposed rate for 2017/18 of $125.00.  Last year’s assessment was $105.00 resulting in an approximate increase of 20% in a one year period and, over the life of the non-ad valorum assessment of an increase of 6 times the original assessment or a 600% increase.

On the business or commercial side of the equation, the formula for non-ad valorum assessment is calculated on a number of factors including but not limited to size and height of the improvements on the land.  What is suspect is that these charges on commercial business properties have seen increases reaching up even higher than residential.  One location that I have been made aware of may have seen its assessment rise from approximately $400.00 per year to a proposed assessment of near $4000.00 for this next period, a ten times factor.  If true, this is a shocking number.

In plain English, the City Council needs to have staff break down these increases.  It cannot be taken lightly that resident and business alike are forever more imposed upon for such non-ad valorum items.  Some Boca Raton Council members are being heard to boast that Boca Raton’s ad valorum tax rate has again been reduced and that Boca Raton has the lowest millage rate in Palm Beach County.  Both these statements are technically true but deceptive as hell.

Without a full rollback being adopted in the millage rate, taxes actually rise.  It is anticipated that earlier in the City Council Budget hearing on Monday, the Council will not rollback the millage rate so that you, the resident, will not have a tax increase.   Moreover the non-ad valorum fire assessment is another statistical foolery.  Couple this with the fact that Boca Raton is an anomaly in Palm Beach County with a separate taxing authority, the Greater Boca Raton Beach and Park District, which levels a one mill tax on all the residents within the District.  Without that taxing authority Boca’s beach and parks would have to be maintained at the city’s expense with at least a 1 millage rate increase to Boca Raton residents.

So City Council members…before you pat yourselves on the back about Boca’s frugal practices and low taxes, you need to ask the City Manager and the fire services what supports the ever increasing upward spiral of this assessment.  Have costs increased by a factor of 6 to 10 times since the assessment’s institution?   I think not….

That would be a refreshing public conversation to have at the budget hearing on Monday, 9/25.  The public will be watching….

Al Zucaro, Publisher