GOP Commissioner Abrams’ vote against property tax rate hike called “despicable” by potential Dem foeby George Bennett | September 24th, 2009
Monday night’s Palm Beach County commission vote for a 14.9 percent property tax rate increase is already emerging as a hot political issue — but not in the way you might think.
Republican Commissioner Steven Abrams’ vote against the rate hike was called “despicable, disgusting” and “unconscionable” today by potential Democratic challenger Pamela Goodman.Abams and Commissioner Shelley Vana voted against hiking the tax rate from $3.78 to $4.34 per $1,000 of appraised value. Abrams said he favored a rate of $4.29 or lower.
Goodman, former president of the nonpartisan Palm Beach County League of Women Voters, has been weighing a 2010 challenge of Abrams for months but today said she’s not sure whether she’ll run. Goodman said she’s been working with the county Democratic Party to recruit candidates for Abrams’ seat and for other races.
Goodman accused Abrams of voting against the rate hike to score political points with voters.
“It was a despicable, disgusting vote….His vote was unconscionable for Palm Beach County,” said Goodman, who supported the $4.34 rate and said a lower level would require the county to make unacceptable service cuts.
“I do not think that it’s despicable to try to reduce the tax burden on our residents during these tough economic times,” Abrams said via cell phone from the county Supervisor of Elections office, where he was filing papers this afternoon to open a 2010 campaign for his District 4 seat.
Because of an overall decline in property values, the 14.9 percent rate increase will allow the county to collect roughly the same amount of money in 2009-10 as it is collecting this year. Many properties will see a drop in their tax bills. But many homesteaded property owners, whose appraisals have been relatively flat because of the state’s Save Our Homes law, will see a double-digit increase in their countywide taxes.
The countywide rate is separate from the rate paid for schools, municipal governments and special districts.
Coastal District 4, which includes Boca Raton and much of Delray Beach, was once a Republican stronghold. But Democrats now hold a 37.6-to-36.1 percent registration advantage. Abrams was appointed to the seat in March by Gov. Charlie Crist to replace Mary McCarty, who resigned in a corruption scandal and is now serving a 3-1/2-year federal sentence.As Abrams opened his 2010 campaign, a potential GOP primary rival announced she won’t challenge him. Boca Raton Councilwoman Susan Haynie, a Republican who was a finalist with Abrams for Crist’s appointment, today ruled out a 2010 commission run after toying with the idea earlier this year.
“I will not be running for county commission,” said Haynie. “I think Commissioner Abrams is doing a very good job.”