The first official step has been made in adopting the Town of Fort Myers Beach budget for fiscal year 2013-14.
The Beach Council approved a tentative operating ad valorem rate at 0.7687 mils to be in compliance with Florida Truth in Millage Law requirements. The first of two budget hearings was also set for Tuesday, Sept. 3, at 6:30 p.m., while the second is scheduled for the same time on Monday, Sept. 16.
Council also introduced an ordinance regarding mandatory recycling for Beach businesses. This action is a result of two work sessions held by Town officials this year, the latter on May 20. A public hearing on the issue will occur on Aug. 5, at 9 a.m.
The adopted tentative millage rate is the same as the current millage rate, which was adopted in mid-September last year and thus held a promise to keep reserves intact and lower Town expenses in the process. That rate is 0.0213 mills lower than the 2012-13 tentative operating ad valorem millage rate of 0.79, set last year on June 18, when Town officials met compliance with state TRIM requirements.
Millage rate uses the taxable value of a certain property.
"A millage rate is a piece of a formula that is used to determine what the dollar amount for taxes for any given particular property may be within the taxing jurisdiction," said Stewart. "It is only a variable in the formula for determining taxes."
Usually, the tentative millage rate is set higher than lowered a bit before the final rate is adopted. It is a reflection of the Beach's property valuation. On June 1, Lee County Property Appraiser Kenneth Wilkinson notified the Town of its estimate of the total assessed value of non-exempt property for budget planning purposes. That estimate was reported to be $2,489,553,000.
On July 1, Wilkinson's office will send another estimate that will aid in the final assessment of the Town's budget process.
"We have noted that in almost 90 percent of the instances over the last 15 years or better that the second valuation that comes forward is even-planed or a bit higher," said Stewart. "It could be a little bit lower though."
Last year, Beach property taxes were lowered for a third consecutive year.
Stewart sent a reminder that Beach residents' total paid taxes do not go solely to the Town.
"It is a very, very small part," he said before giving an example of how much tax is assessed on a home that has a taxable value of $250,000 with the current millage rate. "If we kept the millage rate the same as it is now, we'd have taxes of $192."
Roll-back rates will be determined once final valuation numbers come in. The Town works with a budget of roughly $5 million.
"I think we have done a heck of a good job with the preliminary budget," said Councilman Bob Raymond. "It's probably the best one I've seen in six years."
Regarding the commercial mandatory recycling ordinance, Stewart stated it has been "a long and lengthy process," though the ordinance has just been introduced.
"This will come back to you in July, so that gives us some amount of time for anybody in the public or anyone that owns a business that has any questions about this or anything to say will have ample opportunity to do so," he said.
The proposed required recycling program for businesses calls out for commercial establishments to recycle a minimum of one type of recyclable material -the primary recyclable material that constitutes the largest portion of the establishment's waste stream- that the business generates. Each business could contact Advanced Disposal, the County's franchise hauler, or any properly certified recovered materials dealer to take care of the recyclable item(s).
Recyclable items include metal, paper, glass, plastic, textile or rubber materials.
Thus far, no phone calls or reports from Town staff have come forward about the matter.
"We are just very much into the discussion stage," said Beach Vice Mayor Joe Konsinski.
Mound House Restoration moves forward
The actual building structure of the Mound House property is one step closer to getting restored into a historic museum.
On Monday, Council unanimously approved a qualification ranking for the work and authorized staff to enter contractual negotiations with top choice Fowler Construction and Development and second choice ChrisTel Construction if a satisfactory outcome cannot be reached with Fowler. The qualification-based selection is made prior to rates and fees negotiations.
Proposals were received on June 5, then reviewed immediately by Town Manager Terry Stewart and Public Works Director Cathie Lewis. It is Town staff's intention to have a contract in position for Council approval in August. Work is reported to take roughly nine months to complete.
"I am so please for this to go forward," said Mound House volunteer Ceel Spuhler. "We thank you very much. It's been a long time coming. The momentum has begun."
Central Parking Services retained
In another request for proposal qualification ranking, Council approved Town staff to select Central Parking Services and enter into contract negotiations with the business that has handled management and operations of Beach and Street Enforcement for some time and continues to take care of those B.A.S.E. operations.
Though not the lowest priced firm, the Miami-based business received a solid recommendation. Central Parking Services was noted to have increased revenues each year.
"I am very confident with the work that Central parking has done," said Stewart.
Central Parking's Donna Fletcher said her company plans on replacing the aged pay stations per its proposal.