City commissioners axe fire tax upon urging of fired-up residents

By CRA News Service

DELRAY BEACH – City commissioners came under fire Tuesday night for a proposed tax increase as several hundred residents packed City Hall to show their opposition.

The city had hoped to raise $3.2 million from the new levy on all properties in Delray Beach to pay for an increasing demand on fire services.

But after hearing from several dozen residents, commissioners voted 3-1 against the plan.

“I’m just on top of the world at this moment,” resident and property owner Rhenda Thomas said after the vote. “That’s the best thing that could have been done. I’m glad they listened to the people.”

At the onset of the meeting, it was clear that commissioners Tom Carney and Adam Frankel opposed the tax. Mayor Nelson “Woodie” McDuffie and Commissioner Jay Alperin were in favor. Vice Mayor Angie Gray was the swing vote.

And after hearing from the residents, Gray voted against the proposal. McDuffie is sick and was absent.

Residents said city officials initially presented the plan as a move to bring in new revenue, which ultimately would allow the City to reduce the tax rate and the taxes on real estate.

City officials maintained that basing the tax on the square footage of a property was fairer than basing it on the market value. That means the bigger the home, the greater the fee.
That means 75 percent of the city’s property owners would be taxed $52 or $85 dollars a year. And residents with the biggest homes would have paid more than $200.

But as the details became apparent on how the tax would be structured, residents found it hard to support such proposal.

Some objected to a tax that would affect a small percentage of city residents instead of all residents sharing the burden of paying for government services.

“I’m a big fan of the dire department but I feel the way you are assessing this is extremely unfair,” Neil Cohen, owner of Delray Chevron on West Atlantic Avenue told the commissioners. “It is unfair that my business will be assessed the same tax as the Marriott or Seagate hotel. It is unfair that our taxes will go up 9 percent overall.”

Alperin, who was appointed last August to fill the seat left vacant when former City Commissioner Fred Fetzer resigned in July, cautioned that the fallout from this could hit residents harder than the fee itself would have.
“The rest of the services in the city are going to take a beating because we are going to have to find the money someplace, because we’re not going to have to cut back on fire,” said Alperin, a dentist who served as a commissioner from 1990-1996 and then as mayor until 2000.

Sound off about this story by emailing editor@delraybeachtribune.com or call 561-665-0151.

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About Pedro Heizer

I'm a person of simple taste, all I need is some country music, Batman, Star Wars, sports, coffee, and most importantly Jesus Christ, because what profits a man if he gains the whole world and loses his soul? View all posts by Pedro Heizer

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