Property taxes on Fort Myers Beach will be lowered for a third consecutive year. And local governmental reserves will not be touched again.
That is good news for the Fort Myers Beach Town Council, which unanimously decided to adopt a tentative millage rate of 0.7687 mills ($76.87 annual taxes per $100,000 property value) for fiscal year 2012-13 during a public hearing on Tuesday, Sept. 4. The second and final hearing is set for Sept. 17, at 6:30 p.m.
The adopted tentative rate is 0.0213 mills lower than the tentative operating ad valorem millage rate of 0.79, set on June 18, when Town officials met compliance with state TRIM (Truth in Millage Law) requirements.
Lowering that rate and ways to do so were discussed at a budget workshop a week prior. During that session, Council managed to lower the rate from 0.79 to 0.775, but Town officials found a way to lower it even further.
"After the meeting on Aug. 30, we incorporated the changes that you had discussed," said Town Financial Director Evelyn Wicks. "It reduces the tax revenue by 5.61 percent of the rate that is currently in place."
The millage rate for fiscal year 2011-12 stands at 0.8144, at least 0.0457 higher than what will be the rate come October.
"I feel like giving everyone a standing ovation," quipped Councilwoman Jo List. "It's unbelievable."
For several months, Town officials have been meticulously working on cutting budgetary expenditures through work sessions and meetings, even with increasingly lower taxable values, ones that have been on decline since they reached a peak in 1997. That year, final taxable values were more than $3.9 billion on the Beach. Since then, they have shrunk to a 2012 project amount of just above $2.4 billion, according to Town records.
The Town budget includes an overall amount of $17,635,961, including $5,710,066 in its general fund expenditures. With a fund balance of $5,232,718 in unaudited financials as of July 31, 2012, Town officials have remained prudent keeping their reserves supply intact this cycle.
Town Manager Terry Stewart reported only 10 municipal tax districts have a lower tax rate than the Town of Fort Myers Beach. It currently sits at 369th out of 379 tax districts. The budget does account for a two-percent increase of pay for staff employees, something Council has supported in the past but hasn't instituted for four years.
"I think our citizens can be very proud of what this town has accomplished here," said Stewart. "We are quite healthy with our reserves. We have not been the kind of governmental entity that started spending money from reserves when things got bad to keep up our operations. I compliment this Council in keeping us conservative and in a rare, frugal approach."