Palm Beach Co. facing potential sales tax hike

Posted at 8:13 PM, Feb 09, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-10 06:40:08-05

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – Shoppers in Palm Beach County could eventually be paying more in taxes every time they check out at the cash register.

County commissioners met Tuesday to discuss the possibility of raising the local sales tax.

Palm Beach County currently charges the state minimum of 6 percent sales tax. Commissioners discussed raising it to up to 8 percent.

Palm Beach County firefighters asked for a surtax of up to one cent per dollar to fund fire rescue services. Currently, the county’s fire department is funded by property taxes.

Firefighters said they want to change where the money comes from because sales tax is a more reliable way of receiving funding than the unpredictable housing market.

"Essential emergency services are just one of those things we can't go without if the housing market crashes again,” said Professional Firefighters and Paramedics of Palm Beach County spokesperson Tara Cardoso. “During the downturn we saw a lot of troubling things happen. Staffing was reduced, stations were shut down."

Cardoso said the county’s firefighter union has been pushing for the change since 2008, when they were dealing with the last housing market crash.

“It’s something they’re trying to prevent from happening again by diversifying where the revenue comes from, and the sales tax is one way to do that,” Cardoso said.

The county is also considering adding up to another cent per dollar to the sales tax to increase funding for public services like education, the arts and work on failing infrastructure.

If commissioners decide to move forward, the two separate surtaxes will be placed on the November ballot, and Palm Beach County residents will vote on whether or not to add to the current rate of 6 percent.