The voter-approved Palm Beach County Home Rule Charter became effective in 1985. True Home Rule gives the Board of County Commissioners the ability to create, through a local public hearing ordinance procedure, local laws that are not in conflict with or specifically prohibited by state general law or the Florida Constitution. This process is done without having to go to the Florida Legislature to request special legislation to create these laws.
The Legislative Branch
Palm Beach County is governed by the seven-member Board of County Commissioners (BCC). Board members are elected to staggered four-year terms by registered voters in the district in which the commissioners reside. Commissioners are sworn into office two weeks after being elected in the November general election and may not serve more than two consecutive four-year terms. The BCC elects a mayor to preside over commission meetings and serve as the ceremonial head of Palm Beach County government. A vice mayor is also selected to assume these duties in the absence of the mayor.
The Palm Beach County Charter and Chapter 125.01 of the Florida Statutes establish the specific duties and powers of the Board of County Commissioners. The BCC adopts ordinances (local laws) and resolutions to establish policies and programs aimed at protecting the health, safety and general welfare of Palm Beach County residents. The BCC works to resolve major problems facing local government and guides growth and development throughout the county to be consistent with the public interest. Following are some of the specific duties undertaken by the BCC: Provide law enforcement and fire-rescue protection and disaster relief services;
- Construct and maintain county-owned buildings, roads and bridges, and utility systems;
- Provide programs for housing, community redevelopment, land conservation, flood and beach erosion control, and air-pollution control;
- Adopt and enforce building and housing codes and regulations;
- Prepare, enforce and periodically review the Palm Beach County Comprehensive Plan for the development of unincorporated areas of the county;
- Construct and operate cultural, recreational and library facilities and programs.
In addition, the Board of County Commissioners may enter into agreements with other governmental agencies for joint performance of duties.
The BCC usually meets on the first and third Tuesdays of each month in the Jane M. Thompson Memorial Chambers located on the sixth floor of the Robert Weisman Palm Beach County Governmental Center, 301 North Olive Avenue, West Palm Beach. Workshops usually are held on the fourth Tuesday of each month. The BCC also sits as the Zoning Board, which usually meets on the fourth Thursday of the month.
Citizens may offer comments on regular agenda items, items listed for public hearings and during Matters by the Public, which is usually held on the first Tuesday of the month in the afternoon. During Matters by the Public, citizens are welcome to address any issues under the jurisdiction of the board. Anyone wishing to speak is requested to complete a “Comments by the Public” card (available in the chambers) and give it to the Public Affairs assistant at the staff table to ensure their turn at the appropriate time. There is generally a three-minute time limit, but the chair may reduce the allotted time if there are many people wishing to speak.
BCC meetings are business meetings and as such the board retains the right to limit discussion on any issue. Citizens should verify meeting schedules in advance by contacting the agenda coordinator at 355-3229 or viewing theAgenda online.
The Administrative Branch
The BCC appoints a county administrator who is assigned the executive responsibilities and powers to implement the board’s policies. Under the county administrator’s direction, departments, divisions, and offices provide residents with needed services and programs.
Advisory Boards, Committees and Councils
The BCC appoints residents to voluntarily serve on various advisory boards, commissions, committees, and councils. Some of these advisory panels are required by state law; others are formed to address special needs and to help solve challenging issues. The
Directory of Boards and Committees published by Public Affairs provides details about each panel along with contact information.
Funding County Government
Palm Beach County’s financial operations are budgeted on a fiscal year that begins October 1. The Board of County Commissioners approves the operating budget and sets the property tax (millage) rate. Prior to the beginning of each fiscal year, a proposed budget is submitted by the county administrator, and two public hearings are held to obtain comments and feedback on the planned spending package.
Once this budget review process is completed, the board advertises its intent to adopt the final budget along with a resolution to provide county government with operating and capital funds. Throughout the year, the BCC may review and amend the budget using this review process.
Constitutional officers and members of the Judiciary (judges) are the only Palm Beach County government officials other than county commissioners who are elected by voters. There are seven constitutional officers:
- Clerk of the Circuit Court & Comptroller
- Property Appraiser
- Public Defender
- State Attorney
- Supervisor of Elections
- Tax Collector
Each is elected to serve four-year terms, but unlike county commissioners, constitutional officers are elected countywide (at large) and are not subject to term limits. Constitutional officers establish the budgets for their offices, independent of the operating budget set by the Board of County Commissioners. Although they operate independently, constitutional officers work in cooperation with the BCC in order to serve the public efficiently and cost-effectively.
Independent Taxing Districts
There are a number of independent entities and special taxing districts in Palm Beach County whose assessments may appear on your tax bill. The Board of County Commissioners has no jurisdiction over these entities or their budgets. Examples include:
- School District of Palm Beach County
- South Florida Water Management District
- Children’s Services Council
- Palm Beach County Health Care District
- Port of Palm Beach District
- various improvement, water control, drainage, and inlet districts.
Local municipal governments also are empowered to impose their own ad valorem taxes over which the BCC has no jurisdiction.