Palm Beach Co. considers special tax for Trump’s Mar-a-Lago visits

This Monday, April 3, 2017, file photo, shows the Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky, File)
FILE – In this Friday, April 7, 2017, file photo, a Palm Beach County Sheriff’s lookout tower sits outside of President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort, in Palm Beach, Fla. Commissioners in Palm Beach County are so tired of spending money on President Donald Trump’s frequent visits to his Mar-a-Lago resort, some are suggesting a special tax be levied against the property. Trump’s visits have cost Palm Beach County taxpayers about $2 million. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky, File)

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Commissioners in Palm Beach County are so tired of spending money on President Donald Trump’s frequent visits to his Mar-a-Lago resort that some are suggesting a special tax be levied against the property if the federal government doesn’t reimburse its costs.

Palm Beach County spends more than $60,000 a day when the president visits, mostly for law enforcement overtime — almost $2 million since January. Sheriff Ric Bradshaw says the county was expected to spend $250,000 during Trump’s recent meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, the president’s sixth trip to his Winter White House in the 12 weeks since his inauguration.

County Commissioner Dave Kerner has suggested turning Mar-a-Lago into a special taxing district and imposing a levy on the resort to pay the president’s security costs. Because Mar-a-Lago is incorporated as a club, it pays lower property taxes than hotels. It also gets a tax break because Trump surrendered development rights after he purchased the property from the estate of cereal heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post for $10 million in 1985.

The 500 members pay $14,000 annually in dues. The initiation fee was recently doubled to $200,000. Forbes Magazine estimates the club is now worth $150 million.

“We’re very honored to have the president here, but at the same time, his travel here is such high frequency he’s not visiting Palm Beach County — he’s governing from it,” Kerner told Money magazine recently. “Whatever our priorities are, the taxpayers didn’t pay this money to us to protect the president.”

Kerner did not return numerous calls from The Associated Press to his office.

The sheriff believes the federal government will eventually reimburse the county, but can’t be certain.

“I had a personal conversation with the president in February and he understands,” Bradshaw said. “There is a system in place and, unfortunately, that involves Congress … and that is not an easy thing to navigate through. I am sure they will get around to it.”

Local governments aren’t the only ones complaining. No solution has been found for the 28 business owners at Lantana Airport, a small field for propeller planes about 6 miles (10 kilometers) from Mar-a-Lago. The Secret Service shutters it every time Trump visits Mar-a-Lago because agents believe the 350 flights it handles daily pose a security risk.

Marian Smith, who owns a flight school, says she has lost almost $100,000 because of the closures. A banner-towing company that operates from the airport says it has lost over $40,000 in contracts.

Jonathan Miller, the contractor who operates the county-owned airport, said this week that he believes a compromise will be worked out with the Secret Service, the Federal Aviation Administration and other agencies that would allow the airport to operate with restrictions during presidential visits.

“The FAA has a strong incentive to work with us and help get some funding that will put a system in place that will appease the Secret Service,” Miller said.

The cost of Trump’s visits divides local residents, with the schism often falling along political lines. Trump’s supporters say any money spent by the county is recouped through added visitors lured by the frequent exposure and his visits show he cares about the area.

“The fact that he comes down here, the fact he is involved in the community to this extent even though he is the president, I think that’s great,” said Julian Detwiler, who operates produce stands at local farmers markets. “There are costs associated with everything. It doesn’t cost the country or the community more for him to (visit) than lots of other things we do. It keeps the economy going.”

The president’s critics say the visits illustrate his hypocrisy as he frequently slammed President Barack Obama’s trips, even though they were less frequent and didn’t burden any single community.

“Trump is costing this area so much money, a hell of a lot of money, and he doesn’t seem to give a damn,” said Bob Brink, a novelist and retired local journalist.

WHAT OTHERS ARE CLICKING ON-

>> MORE TOP STORIES

WFLA.com provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others and keep the conversation on topic and civil. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s