The Palm Coast City Council approved the 2022-23 budget and the city’s property tax rate at its second and final hearing Wednesday with a series of 4-1 votes.
Compared to previous tax hearings at the county and the city this season, Wednesday’s hearing was anticlimactic, with all but numbers getting filled in and ratified. Earlier this month, a candidate for a council seat used the occasion to drum up the appearance of controversy by portraying the tax hit on residents as more than it is. The candidate, Alan Lowe, had holstered his rhetoric by Wednesday’s meeting.
(See: “Decrying Misinformation in Face of Another Wave of Opposition, Palm Coast Approves Budget and Tax Hike, 4-1,” and “After Din of Opposition and Another Screaming Match, Palm Coast Council Will Consider Cuts in Tax Hike.”)
The council stuck to its decision to maintain the same tax rate in effect currently, yielding, on paper, what state law defines as a tax increase of 15 percent. That number drew some howls in a previous meeting and at the first hearing, but it is misleading. No homesteaded residents will see a tax increase of more than 3 percent, if that (a decline in school taxes is offsetting county and city tax increases to a degree). Commercial properties, including rental properties, are capped at a 10 percent increase.
The adopted tax rate of $4.61 per $1,000 in taxable value means that a $200,000 house with a $50,000 homestead exemption will pay $692 in city taxes.
Still, thanks to the steepest surge in property values in 16 years, city revenue will surge, too: the $328 million city budget is 29 percent higher year-over-year, with the general fund accounting for just $52.7 million of that. Property tax revenue goes into the general fund. The majority of the rest of the budget–$173 million–is driven by independent, fee-based funds, like utilities, stormwater and garbage. Residents pay those fees, to be sure. And the fees have been increasing apace. Capital project funds, drawn largely from impact fees–the one time fees builders pay on new construction to defray the cost of development–account for $50.6 million.
Palm Coast Mayor David Alfin and Council members Eddie Branquinho, John Fanelli and Nick Klufas voted for the budget and tax rate. Council member Ed Danko, his temper in control, voted against. There was no public comment, at least not on the budget. (A resident had an issue with an unreturned call about swale issues.)
The council also approved its $6.5 million 2023 fleet-replacement program–which Danko also opposed.
Alfin thanked the administration for its work over seven months.
“I am grateful to our City Council for outlining the vision for the future and providing the tools to get us there,” said City Manager Denise Bevan. “This is a balanced budget and will continue to provide the services our residents expect while focusing on infrastructure maintenance and future planning needs of a healthy growing community. I am so proud of our City team who provides incredible quality of life for our residents.”
“Glad to see we’re going to be giving our fire department a few helping hands and I certainly support the five hires for our sheriff,” Danko said of the two firefighters and one fire inspector to be added to the fire department’s ranks, and an additional five deputies to be added to the policing contract for Palm Coast. ” However, I do not support this increase in the millage rate.” The tax rate itself is not increasing. Danko was referring to the tax increase inherent to keeping the tax rate flat when property values increase.
In 2021, the City Council reduced the tax rate more than halfway to the rollback rate, going from 4.6989 mills to 4.6100 mills, where it stands today. The City does not regulate the assessment value of a property, as that is set by State law. The Property Appraiser follows the regulations established by the State Statute to appraise each property. While the City passes a millage rate that results in a portion of the taxes assessed on the property, the Property Appraiser determines the value of the property and any exemptions that may apply. More information is available by visiting the Flagler County Property Appraiser’s website.
A city release outlined in its own language some of the details of the budget below.
The City is committed to providing safe and reliable services for all Palm Coast residents and continues to pursue innovations and collaborative approaches toward this goal. New items in the Adopted Budget to support community safety include:
- Fulfilling the Flagler County Sheriff’s request for five additional deputies to serve the City of Palm Coast, as well as a contracted 5% increase to the Sheriff’s budget.
- Approval of two additional Firefighter/EMTs for the Palm Coast Fire Department and one Fire Inspector.
- Adding two Equipment Operators to the Public Works Department to focus on street maintenance to keep City roads in working order.
Business Attraction and Economic Development
Supporting Palm Coast businesses and promoting economic development is a key part of the City’s strategy for growing its revenue base. The Adopted Budget has new investments to support economic development, including:
- Branding Palm Coast as a regional destination for health care training complemented by research and technology innovation.
- Conceptualizing a Master Plan for the Matanzas Parkway extension westward.
- Delivering a youth sports activity center feasibility study.
- Collaborating with stakeholders and legislative team on Phase II and III of the Old Kings Road widening project in the FDOT 5-year work plan.
Infrastructure and Maintenance Investments
Investing and prioritizing infrastructure and maintenance needs remain a critical part of the City’s efforts to maximize current resources for ongoing future benefits, including:
- Conducting a comprehensive Evaluation and Appraisal Report (EAR) analysis to update the planning horizon to 2045 to guide future growth.
- Additional staffing for water and wastewater services to include water distribution, wastewater collection, wastewater treatment, and additional functions.
- Construction of Maintenance Operations Center to house Public Works, Stormwater & Engineering, Utility and Customer Service in a centralized and structurally sound facility.
- Assessing conditions of saltwater canals and outlining a plan for maintenance.
New fleet vehicles are also necessary to successfully meet service levels. New equipment needs for the fiscal year 2023 equate to 26 vehicles valued at $1.6 million. These assets include a $615,000 VacCon truck used for utility and stormwater projects and a $183,000 dump truck needed by Utility Department.
The City of Palm Coast has a robust fleet replacement program to ensure vehicles driven by City staff are safe to operate. Through this year’s budget process, 181 assets nearing end-of-life were evaluated. It was determined that 43 of those assets absolutely must be replaced to ensure mission critical services are not impacted. These assets were valued at $4.8 million, of which $1.5 million are for Fire Department assets.
Additionally, $2.5 million worth of fleet items budgeted and approved in the current budget that closes on September 30, 2022, were not delivered due to current market conditions. Those budgeted dollars are carrying over to the Fiscal Year 2023 budget. The total fleet owned and operated by the City of Palm Coast contains over 650 assets.