No tax rate hike or Ocean Strand sale to fund Boca National

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By: Diane Emeott Korzen Contributing Writer

The good news for the roughly 125,000 residents of the Greater Boca Raton Beach & Park District — which includes the smaller 93,235 population of residents who live within City of Boca boundaries — is the District’s millage rate for Fiscal Year 2020 did not go up, as it was tentatively proposed to.

The District’s final millage rate for this fiscal year is the same as it was for one that just ended, 0.9147 mills.

The bad news is, as of press time, it is still unknown how the district will fund the cost of building Boca National golf course on the site of the old Ocean Breeze in Boca Teeca.

The topic has caused controversy between the district and city council. City council members have balked over the proposed price tag of the course. City council members have also offered to take over the project from the district.

The decision to hold the tax rate steady came after the final hearing on Sept. 25 was postponed to Oct. 1 and moved to a larger venue due to a large turnout of folks complaining about the proposed increase.

“Over the past couple weeks members of our community voiced their desire to keep the tax rate stable – at least for one more year,” Commission Chair Susan Vogelgesang said. “We encourage that kind of involvement from the community and try whenever possible to be responsive to community desires.”

Then, a week later, the district ruled out the possibility of selling the Ocean Strand property as a possible venue source to pay for the golf course.

The District received an unsolicited offer from the Compson Boca Group to purchase the property for $67.5 million.

The property was originally purchased by the District with a bond via the city.

“We are a Special Taxing District with somewhat limited authority. We have the ability to acquire, purchase, or lease office property, or beach and park property. Noticeably absent is the power to sell or convey [property],” said district attorney Jacob Horowitz.

The legal opinion pleased Commissioner Steven Engel, “How delighted I am to hear this! [Ocean Strand] is something near and dear to me since I’ve been on this Board. Now I don’t have to say, ‘Over my dead body’ [regarding any potential sale of Ocean Strand — as none is possible].”

Boca Beach & Park District originally proposed raising its millage by 30.71 percent (1.1956 mills) in order to fund the golf course and various capital projects the District is committed to.

By the beginning of the final hearing, the District had reduced its proposed millage rate hike to a 15 percent increase (1.0195 mills). The after residents and council members voiced concerns, the rate remained the same.

The District’s final budget is $39,506,300 – nearly $4 million less than a tentative budget of $43,350,300.

Unchanged are the District’s Capital Expenses, budgeted at: $250,000 for Golf Course Design & Construction; $715,000 for District Capital Projects; and $500,000 for Gumbo Limbo Project, as well as $300,000 for Beach Renourishment Sinking Fund and $120,000 for contract administration. The Beach & Park District also oversees both Sugar Sand Park and Patch Reef Park.