The Town of Fort Myers Beach will continue its impressive run of maintaining one of the lowest tax rates in the state of Florida.
On Monday evening, the Beach Council approved to adopt an operating ad valorem millage rate for taxes for fiscal year 2013-14 in the amount of 0.7530 mills (to equal the roll back rate) during its second and final hearing in its annual budget process. Using the 2012 calculation list, that number would rank the Beach as the 11th lowest municipality among 385 that levied taxes in the state, according to the www.myflorida.com website.
The action means Beach property owners will pay $0.7530 in annual taxes per $1,000 of taxable property value. There has been a slight increase in property values overall on the island this year.
"Keep in mind, everybody's individual property is looked at separately by the (Lee County) Property Appraiser's office," said Town Manager Terry Stewart. "Some people's evaluation may go up more than the 2.8 percent (increase due to property values) or some may not go up that much. But on the average island-wide, the tax rate you have chosen is one that will not cause a tax increase for property taxes for the property owners for the Town of Fort Myers Beach."
Property taxes on Estero Island 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.
The Town's overall budget for 2013-14 of nearly $37.3 million was approved. In a year's time, the general fund rose from $5,779,529 to $6,135,321, due to the expected acquisition of much needed capital equipment. Town officials are looking to replace some maintenance equipment that has reliability and repair issues since such equipement has been kept possibly three to four years longer than expected as compared to state guidelines.
However, the increase in budget is not being absorbed by taxpayers. It is being extracted from general fund reserves, which Town officials have reported to be in solid condition due to prudent action from past Councils. In fact, the purchases of capital equipment are expected to be an amount slightly less than 5 percent of accumulated total reserves.
Stewart restated that reserves are generally utilized as a "rainy day fund" or a need for a minimum of three months of operating expenses in case of emergency and/or to replace capital equipment. The Town was reported to have roughly nine months of operating expenses in reserve.
Anything that is budgeted and not used for each fiscal year is deemed a "positive difference" and goes into the general fund reserves.
Council has been working on this upcoming fiscal year's budget process -fiscal year begins Oct. 1 and ends Sept. 30 each year- since February with various public workshops and meetings before the two required public hearings, which drew no public comment.
"This is one of the best budget processes that I have ever worked with an elected body," said Stewart.