Condo owners’ assessments for Palm Beach utility project could fall

Article Courtesy of  The Palm Beach Daily News

By William Kelly

Published April 21, 2017


Condominiums and homes in multifamily buildings would fare better than single-family homes in a revised method for determining how much property owners would pay for townwide undergrounding of utilities.

The revised assessments were presented to the Town Council last week by Habib Isaac, senior manager with consultant Raftelis Financial Consultants, who contrasted the new figures with those he developed for the town in 2015.

The average annual assessment for single-family homes would go up $89 to $1,048. But the annual assessment would drop $48 to $301 for the average condominium, and go down $84 to $327 for units in multifamily buildings.

Isaac’s assessment method was adopted by the council in 2009, and it was updated in 2015 to keep up with the property database. The latest revisions have not been formally adopted.


Before the March 16, 2016, referendum, when voters approved up to $90 million in bonds for the undergrounding project, the property owners could review on the town’s website an estimate of how much they and other owners would pay each year for 30 years.

The assessment method reflects the benefits each property would receive — in terms of improved aesthetics, safety and system reliability, Isaac said. Those with the most benefit “units” assigned pay more. There are some minor changes this time; larger lot sizes pay more than before for safety and aesthetic benefits, he said.

“It appears to me there is huge savings to the condos as opposed to the single-family homes,” Mayor Gail Coniglio said.

The estimates do not include “soft costs” such as legal fees and the tax collector’s collection fee, Isaac said. Once known, those will be included.

Councilwoman Julie Araskog suggested and the rest of the council agreed to request that, in cases where a property has multiple above-ground utility boxes on it, the assessment account for that.

Utility boxes along Island Drive on Everglades Island in on February 26, 2016. The Palm Beach council has suggested that, in cases where a property has multiple above-ground utility boxes on it, the assessment account for that.

A resolution will be brought before the council May 9. If the council decides to adopt the plan a public hearing would be held in July or August, said assessment attorney Heather Encinosa.

Some condo residents have said that under the assessments they pay a disproportionately greater share than they would if the project was paid for with property taxes.

Bradford said in an email Tuesday that the assessment revisions are “primarily related to formalizing the informal changes the Town Council requested before the referendum in March 2016. I consider those changes to be addressing primarily the cost concerns related to condominiums.”