Poll: Should Palm Beach County raise taxes to pay teachers more, boost school security?

Florida teachers are underpaid.

Our state ranks eighth from the bottom in per-pupil spending in elementary-secondary education, according to Census Bureau statistics.

Elementary-secondary teachers in Florida earn an average $49,199. (That’s $9,154 less than the U.S. average.)  Teachers are going into their own pockets an average of $479 every year for classroom supplies, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Now the Palm Beach County School Board is considering whether to ask voters this fall to raise their property taxes as much as $153 million a year, primarily to boost teacher pay. The money would also help pay for the 75 more security officers needed to patrol every school in the sprawling district and for more student mental-health services — both in reaction to the mass shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

But in November 2016, voters approved a penny-per-dollar increase in sales tax to pay for maintenance and construction projects for schools and city and county governments.

Is it too soon to ask voters to dip into their wallets again?

Tell us what you think.

Christie: Should people be allowed to bring guns into the Tax Collector’s office?

A line of people waiting to get into the county Tax Collector’s office snakes through lobby of the Palm Beach County Governmental Center. (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)

What is going on? That’s the question a lot of folks had after reading the below op-ed from Palm Beach County Tax Collector Anne Gannon earlier this month.

“Just last month, our agency experienced two incidents in our service centers when customers brought guns into our workplace. Sadly, these incidents frighten employees,” Gannon wrote.

Once again, Florida’s struggles with its image as “the Gunshine State” — and state lawmakers’ efforts to allow guns everywhere — has an unexpected consequence.

The tax collector is not exactly on everyone Christmas card list. And it just so happens that the holiday season coincides with the office’s busy property tax collection season.

RELATED: Christie commentary: Guns, shopping malls are a bad retail mix

Palm Beach County Tax Collector has asked state Sen. Bobby Powell, D-West Palm Beach, to sponsor legislation outlawing guns from tax collector’s offices.

With all of that stress, Gannon felt that this not the place for folks to bring firearms — even those with concealed carry permits. She wants there to be a law.

These days, where folks can legally carry or purchase firearms is becoming a dicey issue. Attitudes depend on where you live in the state. For example, I heard that the Dick’s Sporting Goods in the Seminole Town Center in Sanford sells guns.

Is Gannon’s request infringing on Second Amendment rights?

 

POINT OF VIEW: Protect employees, public from workplace violence

Collecting taxes and fees from the public is not an easy job. The 300 dedicated employees of the Palm Beach County Tax Collector’s Office do their best to make the experience as pleasant and efficient as possible. Unfortunately, they must also serve angry and upset clients, some of whom threaten violence.

Just last month, our agency experienced two incidents in our service centers when customers brought guns into our workplace. Sadly, these incidents frighten employees.

Last month also marked the beginning of property tax collection, our busiest season, with agency employees serving nearly 7,000 clients in person at seven service centers across Palm Beach County. I am upset to think of the tragic consequences these two incidents could have had on our agency’s employees and the public we serve.

Workplace violence must be stopped; which is why I asked state Sen. Bobby Powell, D-West Palm Beach, to introduce an amendment to Senate Bill 134 that would have helped protect Tax Collector office employees as well as the public.

The amendment would add all Tax Collector offices to the list of places where concealed weapon permit-holders are restricted from carrying guns. Examples of places already on this list include courthouses, polling places, schools and any meeting of the governing body of a county, public school district, municipality or special district. When you consider the amount of money our agency handles, the contentious nature of taxation and fees and the sheer number of clients we serve in person, it only makes sense to add Tax Collector offices to this list.

Unfortunately, Sen. Powell’s amendment did not even make it out of the Dec. 5 Senate Judiciary Committee hearing. SB 134 sought to allow Floridians with concealed weapons licenses to carry firearms up to the entrance of courthouses. Fortunately, it was opposed 6-4.

The 2018 legislative session begins on Jan. 9. I urge you to contact your local representatives now to make your voice heard. We must continue to take action to protect employees and the public from workplace violence.

ANNE M. GANNON, WEST PALM BEACH

Editor’s note: Anne M. Gannon is the Palm Beach County tax collector.

Letter: There’s no need to raise taxes in Palm Beach Gardens

www.public-domain-image.com (public domain image)
http://www.public-domain-image.com (public domain image)

I request there be no property-tax rate nor sales-tax rate increases in Palm Beach Gardens. Consider:

  1. The Post in the April 29 issue reported a growth in property values of 7.2 percent for the City of Palm Beach Gardens from 2015 to 2016. Property taxes are projected to generate $60 million of the General Fund budget in 2016. The 7.2 percent growth in property values would add approximately $4.32 million.
  2. It has been reported that sales of commodities covered by the sales tax grew by 7.4 percent in this area. The PBG General Fund budget for 2016 includes approximately $3.8 million from the half-cent sales tax. The 7.4 percent growth in commodities sold covered by the sales tax would add approximately $280,000.
  3. PBG would receive approximately $4.6 million from the combination of 1 and 2 above. The PGA General Fund budget for 2016 is approximately $75 million, and $4.6 million is 6 percent more revenue, with no increase in the property-tax rate or the sales-tax rate.

Therefore, no addition to the property-tax rate or the sales-tax rate is necessary, because their natural growth will produce substantial additional revenue.

RICHARD DUNN, PALM BEACH GARDENS

Letter: Paying with plastic? A tax by any other name is still a tax

 

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

I was very surprised, after waiting more than two hours to get a license plate for my lawn-mower trailer, that there is a $2.50 extra charge to pay with a debit card. If you paid with a credit card, it was only $2, with an add-on if the transaction exceeded $500.

There was no explanation that justified penalizing the use of plastic; just pay it. Now in this electronic age, it is well known that few people walk around with any significant amount of cash on their person, let alone use a checkbook. This isn’t just another tax — or is it?

D.F. CLENDINING, LOXAHATCHEE

Letter: County’s priorities not same as Braves’

Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Julio Teheran throws in the first inning against the Houston Astros in a spring training baseball game, Friday, March 25, 2016, in Kissimmee, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Julio Teheran. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

I was reading the April 9 Local section, and two stories caught my eye: one concerning the proposed sales tax (“Gardens officials vote to oppose hike in sales tax”) and the other on building another spring training stadium for baseball (“Braves want county’s largest park”).

Where it got interesting were the numbers. Using the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches as a template, let’s take a look: $113 million from the state bed tax, $50 million from the state (for a $144 million complex, by the way). One of the principals involved estimates 144,000 fans attending over the course of a year.

So we are spending $163 million in state money for 144,000 to watch spring training baseball. I’m sure “jobs creation” would be the rebuttal here, but some will be temporary workers … you know, spring training.

We have a lot more than 144,000 people involved in the school system and using infrastructure in Palm Beach County. So before you ask for more tax money to fix these problems, I suggest people in government start drawing the right priorities.

I’m sure the money is earmarked for certain items. However, like the Atlanta Braves lobbyist said concerning the stadium: It might be time to get “very creative” with our tax dollars, as far as how we’re spending them.

MIKE HUNDLEY, WEST PALM BEACH

Letter: Keep county sales tax revenue away from Cultural Council

www.public-domain-image.com (public domain image)

Believing that sales taxes and other government-controlled public revenue should go only to government controlled-public services, I do not favor putting a single dollar of sales tax revenue toward cultural projects.

If cultural projects cannot stand on their own, those with the cultural interests, and not the general public, should be called upon to support them as they wish.

CHARLES LAMBETH, BOYNTON BEACH

Letter: Let the Atlanta Braves be brave and use own money

Letter writer Christine Schwartz, left, and Michael Witherwax, of Lake Worth, right, show their opposition and support to a proposed spring training complex in John Prince Park during a Palm Beach County Commission meeting last Tuesday. RICHARD GRAULICH / PALM BEACH POST
Letter writer Christine Schwartz, left, and Michael Witherwax, of Lake Worth, right, show their opposition and support to a proposed spring training complex in John Prince Park during a Palm Beach County Commission meeting last Tuesday. RICHARD GRAULICH / PALM BEACH POST

It was interesting and yet disingenuous to listen to supporters for the Atlanta Braves telling Palm Beach County commissioners to bring the Braves home, using yet more taxpayer money for yet another spring training stadium (“Braves’ possible return fuels opinions,” Wednesday).

Bring home the Atlanta Braves? Quite an oxymoron. If you remember, they decided to thumb their noses at Palm Beach County in 1997 for a new, better stadium in Orlando. Their Orlando stadium will be 20 years old (heaven forbid, it’s so old); so it’s time for yet another new stadium at taxpayer expense.

Taking a public park from the citizens is not an issue for them or some of our county commissioners.

I’ve heard from commissioners and the stadium supporters of the huge economic impact it will give to the county. This is hyperbole. I have yet to hear or see any actual statistics from independent economists who have studied this issue. Supporters, show us your numbers and who gave them to you.

Before the commissioners approve this welfare for billionaires, perhaps they should consider putting the issue to the taxpayers to vote on. They want to take John Prince Park and give it to billionaires who will only tire of it in 15 to 20 years and move on again. I think the residents of Palm Beach County should vote on this issue, don’t you?

How about the Braves doing something “brave” to help the poor, such as build a new spring training stadium with their own money in economically deprived Belle Glade?

CHRISTINE SCHWARTZ, LOXAHATCHEE

Palm Beach County and the Atlanta Braves: Are commissioners itching to play ball?

Atlanta Braves' Hall-of-Fame pitcher John Smoltz, facing the New York Mets in 2007. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Atlanta Braves’ Hall-of-Fame pitcher John Smoltz, facing the New York Mets in 2007. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Just days after an agonizing debate over whether to advance a sales tax proposal to the voters in November, Palm Beach County commissioners are gushing about the chance to build a spring training facility for yet another major league team, the Atlanta Braves.

Hal Valeche, who met with Braves officials over breakfast on Wednesday morning, had voted against the $2.7 billion sales tax plan on Tuesday, saying it strayed too far from its original purpose of repairing roads and schools because it contained $121 million for cultural institutions and possibly another $40 million for economic development projects. And throughout the hours of discussion, he sounded every bit the tight-fisted conservative.

But after chowing down with top Braves officials, Valeche said, “I told them I would try as hard as I could to figure out a creative way to finance this.”

The dreamed-of facilities for the Braves, which the club wants to build in John Prince Park, just west of Lake Worth, could cost up to $100 million.

Commissioners Shelley Vana, Priscilla Taylor and Melissa McKinlay also sounded receptive to the idea, after meeting with the team’s President John Schuerholz and Chairman Terry McGuirk. “It’s an amazing opportunity to have a really popular team with a really great following,” Vana said.

Vana also acknowledged that the project would be “a heavy-duty lift.”

You think? County officials,  working with the Palm Beach County Schools, are going to have a tough enough time this year persuading residents to boost the sales tax to 7 cents from 6 cents for 10 years. The case for the tax hike is an urgent need to keep up roads, bridges, vehicles and buildings that went to seed during the belt-tightening years of the recession. Now they’re going to argue that millionaire team owners need tourist-tax dollars, state money and possibly city contributions, too?

Less than a year ago, the commission earmarked $113 million for the Houston Astros and Washington Nationals. The clubs will be sharing the $144-million Ballpark of the Palm Beaches, now being built in West Palm Beach. The state also pledged $50 million for that facility. And the teams are pitching in with at least $67 million overall in annual installments over 30 years, plus cost overruns.

The county already is the spring home of the Miami Marlins and the St. Louis Cardinals, which share Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter. Adding a fifth club, the popular Braves, would make Palm Beach County a cynosure of preseason baseball. No doubt, thousands of fans and countless media reports would follow.

The Braves , who trained in West Palm Beach from 1962 to 1997 before moving to Orlando, are also considering a move to Sarasota. But Taylor said, “They really want to come back.”

If the Braves are so eager, the commissioners ought to drive a hard bargain. Perhaps allow the team to lease land at the park at no cost, but put the construction costs on the team, being very careful about spending the people’s money.

Too many municipalities have been burned by professional sports teams that promised big economic benefits from stadiums that never materialized. Taxpayers should be wary of playing this game.

 

 

 

Letter: Don’t shortchange schools for culture

share122Does Rena Blades, the Cultural Council of Palm Beach County’s executive director, really think that giving millions to cultural organizations will “create prosperity for our community” (Feb. 24)? She needs to open her eyes to Lake Worth, where the Cultural Council resides, and look beyond that white building to the homeless people around the corner.

She needs to explore the Guatemalan community, where there often are several families living under one roof.

Will the prosperity spread to those populations, too?

Does it matter that in our school system, our children are no longer taught cursive, nor do they learn typing skills — typing with only two fingers? Mike Murgio, a Palm Beach County School Board member, is “having a problem understanding” that the School District could take a $10 million hit because of the cultural groups.

I am exposed to many nonprofit organizations — cultural as well as human services — and support many of them. They rely on caring, compassionate community members for support.

I understand our community thrives on tourism, but we need to educate our youth by teaching them how to be the next leaders of this country. Without the proper education, these children won’t even be able to spell “Cultural Council,” let alone support it.

BEVERLEE MILLER RAYMOND, PALM BEACH

Editor’s note: Beverlee Miller Raymond is president of the nonprofit Extraordinary Charities.