Last Tuesday evening, the Fort Myers Beach Town Council unanimously approved a tentative millage rate and budget for fiscal year 2013-14 -both discussed in detail in a prior week workshop- as well as a straight pass on a Lee County bulk water rate increase and an adoption of flood plain regulations to aid in a better rating from FEMA.
As expected, Town officials found a way to lower its proposed millage rate to reflect its roll-back rate and lower its budget for the next fiscal year during two public hearings on the matter. The tentative millage rate now stands at 0.7530 mils ($75.30 annual taxes per $100,000 property value) after a reduction from a mid-June approval of a TRIM rate of 0.7687 mils.
"That, in essence means there is no tax increase," said Town Manager Terry Stewart. "There may be some folks that experience a reduction in taxes, while there may be some who have a slight increase. What we are talking about is a town as a whole. Town-wide, there is no increase in taxes."
There was no public comment on the first hearing under both millage rate and budget, meaning no dissenting input as to the process or budgetary numbers.
Council will look to adopt a final millage rate on Monday, Sept. 16, at 6:30 p.m. The tentative numbers set Tuesday evening will ensure property taxes on Fort Myers Beach will not be raised for a fourth consecutive year. Last year, the Town set a final millage rate of 0.7687 mills for fiscal year 2012-13.
Like last year's final numbers, the budget accounts for an added "modest" raise (2%) for staff employees after none such increase the prior three years.
Unlike last year, there maybe reserve money used for a lobbyist expenditure, something not discovered during the most recent budget workshop. That figure stands at $40,400 under "other legal services" in expenditures.
"Honestly, what I would personally recommend is we take that out of reserves and next year we work that into the budget," said Councilman Bob Raymond. "I think its the best way."
Other line items were discussed. Councilman Dan Andre questioned $64,760 spent on law enforcement expenditures for the Town Mooring Field. That item will be looked into closer before a next budget is passed.
"I think by the fact that you received no public comment sort of demonstrates the public has looked at what you have done and has felt comfortable from the start. I think we probably have as good as any budgetary process as you can find," said Stewart.
Town to increase potable water rate in October
Acting with a County-approved increase in wholesale water rate, Council unanimously approved to raise a potable water rate to Beach residents.
This is the second year in a row that County has raised the potable water rate.
The wholesale water rate will increase by eight cents per 1,000 gallons and go into effect Oct. 15, 2013.
Based upon per thousand gallons, the new retail water rate for all water utility customers, who were notified via an insert into their monthly water billing, will be $5.35 for Block 1, $6.35 for Block 2, $7.35 for Block 3 and $8.35 for Block 4.
Floodplain regulations ordinance approved
The Town of Fort Myers Beach is looking to better position itself for the best possible review under the community rating system for floodplain regulations that insurance companies use for premiums. The public hearing provided the Town to establish an ordinance to update floodplain regulations based upon the adoption of the 2010 Florida Building Code to be consistent with flood provisions and adopt technical amendments to the Florida Building Code for higher regulatory standards.
"Without this ordinance, the Town's floodplain regulations would not coordinate with the 2010 Florida Building Code, which took effect on March 15, 2012," said Josh Overmyer, the Town's Planning Coordinator, Floodplain Administrator and CRS Coordinator. "Part of what this ordinance does is require higher standards for record-keeping. We are also providing a listing of guidance documents from FEMA to help our property owners and contractors to work through the issues that the floodplain regulations present."
The Town will be undergoing an evaluation from the International Organization for Standardization CRS specialists during mid-September.
"This will go a long way for validation to show we have the appropriate technical infrastructure in place in order to support what they expect us to do with regard to management in presenting possible flood damage," said Stewart.
ISO gave the Town a Class 4 designation regarding classification rating for building code. Class 1 is regarded as best and Class 10 is seen as the worst designation. The Town has never been scored before in the rating.