Some Democrats buck their party on its support for 14.9 percent countywide property tax rate hikeby George Bennett | September 11th, 2009
“A 15 percent increase in the tax rate is unconscionable in the kind of economy we’re in right now,” said state Rep. Mary Brandenburg, D-West Palm Beach, who’s running next year for the District 2 commission seat of term-limited Jeff Koons.
Brandenburg said commissioners should have “looked hard” at keeping the rate at this year’s level of $3.78 per $1,000 of appraised value rather than casting a preliminary vote Tuesday to jack it up to $4.34.
The Palm Beach County Democratic Executive Committee passed a resolution supporting the $4.34 rate and Democratic Committeewoman Bunny Steinman spoke in favor of it at Tuesday’s commission hearing. Commissioners voted 5-2 for the rate, with Democrat Shelley Vana and Republican Steven Abrams opposed. Vana and Abrams favored a $4.29 rate.
Brandenburg’s Democratic primary rival, school board member Paulette Burdick, also called the $4.34 rate excessive. She said she would have joined Abrams and Vana in supporting a $4.29 rate instead.
On the school board Wednesday, Burdick was the lone vote against hiking the school tax rate by 10 percent, from $7.25 to $7.98. Burdick said afterward she favored a $7.73 rate.
Elissa Pearl, the Democrat who has opened a campaign for the District 6 commission seat of Jess Santamaria, didn’t embrace the $4.34 rate but stopped short of criticizing it.
“If I were on the commission, I could only imagine what a tough vote this was. By representing District 6, my job will be to represent ALL of my constituents, and as a moderate, pro-business Democrat I would only consider a tax increase as an absolute LAST resort,” Pearl said in an e-mail.
District 6 commissioner Santamaria, a Democrat, hasn’t said whether he’ll run next year. Santamaria was part of the 5-2 majority supporting the 14.9 percent rate hike.