Plan For Proposed Utility Tax
October 12, 1986
By TODD NELSON, Staff Writer
DEERFIELD BEACH — With a utility tax referendum already on the ballot, Mayor Jean Robb has offered a plan to outline how the city should collect the tax. If voters approve the referendum question on Nov. 4, the city would have the authority to levy a utility tax of up to 5 percent on electric, gas and local telephone bills.
Under Robb’s plan, residents would pay 4 percent in utility taxes on the first $10 of their local telephone bills, or 40 cents a month, and 1 percent of the remainder.
They also would pay 4 percent on the first $40 of their electric bills, or $1.60 a month, and 1 percent on the remainder. Robb presented her proposal to commissioners last week.
Details of how tax revenues would be collected would not be worked out officially unless voters approved the referendum, Robb said.
But she wanted to give a preview of what voters could expect to pay if they voted in favor of it.
”By not telling the voters ahead of time, you are dooming this whole thing to defeat,” Robb told her fellow commissioners.
Robb said she could not predict exactly how much revenue the tax would generate under her plan.
She said it would be far less than the $1.25 million a year that officials estimated would be raised by a full 5 percent utility tax.
Although her plan would raise less money than the a 5 percent tax, Robb said it would produce a fairer way for residents to pay for city services.
Because of the $25,000 homestead exemption, some residents pay little or no property taxes, Robb said. But all residents receive the same police or fire service, for example, regardless of the city property taxes they pay, she said.
“It actually is an attempt to equalize the tax burden,” Robb said. “To be fair, everybody should be paying some part of the cost of providing services in this city.”
Commissioner Ernest Visco first proposed in August that commissioners explore establishing a utility tax as a way to raise money to enable city officials to lower the city`s property tax rate.
Robb and Vice Mayor Ben Budd have joined Visco in voting to put the utility tax question to voters.
Commissioners Carl Nixon and Joe Tractenberg opposed adding it to the ballot.
The city has been without a utility tax since 1979, when residents voted overwhelmingly in a referendum to repeal it.
Budd said Robb’s proposal may be valuable as a means of getting the public to consider a utility tax. It would have greater value, he said, if it raised more than a negligible amount for reducing property taxes.
Rather than fairness, he said, the city should look at the tax revenue it is missing out on from some of the greatest users of city services because it has no utility tax.
“It just bothers me that those firms are paying taxes in neighboring cities when they’re not in Deerfield,” Budd said.
Tractenberg said he was more concerned about what would be done with the money raised than with the fairness question.
Tractenberg has said he was not necessarily opposed to a utility tax but voted against the ordinance because he wanted the city to have the freedom to use the money for purposes other than to reduce property taxes.
Tractenberg registered his opposition to the utility tax after commissioners refused his proposal to direct 20 percent of the utility tax proceeds to the city’s beautification efforts.
ROBB’S UTILITY TAX PROPOSAL
Telephone service 4 percent of first $10 (in-state calls only), 1 percent on remainder.
For bill of: Monthly utility tax would be:
$20 50 cents
$30 60 cents
$40 70 cents
$50 80 cents
4 percent on first $40, 1 percent on remainder.
For bill of: Monthly utility tax would be:
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