WPB to PBC: Don’t raise taxes!

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Earlier this month, the West Palm Beach City Commission voted unanimously to hold its tax rate steady for the next budget year. On Monday, the commission adopted a resolution to ask the Palm Beach County Commission to do the same. Mayor Jeri Muoio and city commissioners directed staff to draft the resolution at the request of Palm Beach Mayor Gail Coniglio, who has been working to create a coalition of municipalities to pressure the County Commission not to increase the tax burden already draining residents’ wallets.

While commissioners were united in support for the tax resolution, the same couldn’t be said for the new Reapportionment Map for the boundaries of West Palm Beach’s five districts, which sparked contentious debate when they came up for initial approval. With nearly 18,000 more residents now than in 2000, major adjustments were needed. City Attorney Claudia McKenna explained that the districts were required, under the Fair Districts amendments passed by Florida voters last year, to be contiguous, compact and promote fair representation.

Even though the city hosted a public forum on the proposed map last week, Lia Gaines, president of the West Palm Beach NAACP, told commissioners that they should give the public more opportunity to see the maps and provide input. Gaines also recommended that the commission consider returning to single-member district elections, which she said would provide for more representative accountability. West Palm Beach changed from at-large to single-member districts in 1995, but after voters overturned district elections in a 1997 referendum, commissioners have been elected by all voters in the city ever since.

The City Commission voted to approve on first reading the proposed Reapportionment Map as drafted, but Mayor Muoio pointed out that the public still has two weeks to review and recommend changes before final approval.

In other business, in an attempt to increase efficiency and save costs, city staff proposed a resolution for an agreement with Palm Beach County to provide the city’s digital-imaging services. Commissioner Kimberly Mitchell questioned how the cost compared with doing business with the private sector. Staff explained that three vendors were contacted for quotes. Since the quotes were not received yet, the item was continued to the next meeting.

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