The Fort Myers Beach Public Library Board of Directors lowered the independent taxing district's millage rate and budget for fiscal year 2013-14 during a final public budget hearing last week.
The Board unanimously adopted a millage rate of 0.4599 mills to support a budget of $1,394,881 for the upcoming tax year that began Oct. 1 and closes on Sept. 31, 2014. The numbers for fiscal year 2012-13 were 0.4999 mills and a budget of $1,474,745.
While some line items on the budget remained roughly the same, some expenditures saw large increases or decreases from past year to new fiscal year. Expenditures were lowered under Furniture and Equipment from $44,000 to $9,000 (mostly shelving; now in place); salaries were raised from $429,915 to $459,835 (two new part-time library clerk positions for on-call status); contractual services increased from $34,970 to $57,330 (due mostly to a contract on a tiller, proposed contract on technical support and cleaning personnel) and professional services decreased from $60,100 to $24,000 (a savings on architectural and contractor fees).
An expansion project added nearly 18,900 square feet to an existing building that was 15,300 square feet at 2755 Estero Blvd. The construction project is officially over.
Board members and Beach residents that attended the meeting complimented Library Director Dr. Leroy Hommerding for his work in overseeing the construction of an expansion project that was reported to be fully completed, coming under budget for it and an overall lowering of the budget at the same time.
"I'm just proud to be part of the fact that we have not cut services. We are actually expanding our staff and expanding our services," said board member Mark LaFave. "We are on the cutting edge. When you pay your taxes you see that your money has been well invested."
"You fulfilled the promises that were made, and I think that is very important to recognize," said resident Pat Smith. "You followed through to reduce the millage rate."
"I feel like we've turned a good corner for the community," added board member Karen Swanbeck.
"In my work history, I had a lot of big projects that would be reported to me. I understand how very difficult it is to do these projects," said resident Bruce Butcher. "I want to compliment Leroy on his ability to get this project done on time, under budget, with this quality and keep the library running."
"It's good to hear so many positive statements coming from all over the room," said board member Lori Wolf.
Expansion under budget
Manhattan Construction has closed its Beach office and moved on. Other then touch up work and small replacement work, which the company has agreed to do at no additional cost, the new expansion and older structure are now one building and construction is over.
Ending construction costs were reported to be $133,779.26 under budget.
"I can't tell you how elated I am about that," said Hommerding.
Board members agreed to look into placing the extra funds from construction into either reserves, catastrophe funds or a newly instituted solar project in hopes of becoming energy independent.
While the budget amount for utilities was raised from $34,549 to $57,330 for the new fiscal year, 'Total Solar' may benefit taxpayers in future utility cost savings. It was introduced this budget cycle and into the 2013-14 budget. Thoughts are it possibly can generate more energy than needed, and excess energy would be used in a public grid where Florida Power & Light would subtract the cost from what is used each month.
Beach Library officials budgeted $70,000 for the Total Solar program (a relative budget push since $70,980 was dropped from construction contingency) and hope to budget money in each of the next two budgets for 2015 implementation.
"I'm thinking utilities will go down drastically in the future," said Hommerding. "By next year's budget hearings, I should have figures of what it will cost us to put in the system. We are also going to put up a grid so that the public can see how much electricity is being produced, how much carbon monoxide is not being released and savings on a daily basis."
Independent auditor selected
After viewing reports from two independent auditors for the past couple of months, the Library Board unanimously approved to retain Ashley Brown for auditing services.
Ashley Brown and Tuscan & Company were the choices, and the former was chosen due to its all-inclusive price as well as its past history at the Beach Library. In its proposal, the chosen auditor increased its cost to just $50 per year under contract.
"I do know that Ashley Brown had a lot of things to go through for construction the past two years," said Hommerding. "This year, a team of three spent five extra hours here and didn't bill us for that."
Ashley Brown will make a public presentation during the new fiscal year.
Programs, circulation and library cards updates
Dr. Hommerding announced usage of the Community Room. In July, nine scheduled programs yielded 108 participants and seven children's programs saw 139 in attendance. In August, 94 people attended 10 scheduled programs, while 89 children attended four programs.
More people are signing up for library cards at the Beach Library. In July, 152 new patron cards were reported to be issued. In August, 108 more patron cards were issued.
"It used to be that are summers were dramatically lower," said Hommerding. "We have noticed during the past two summers that more people are using the library. Now, we are up over 50 percent each month."
Circulation was noted to be up 12 percent in July.
"I am not worried about the number of people that use the building," said Hommerding. "I'm pleased with the number of residents that have not had library cards in the past are now getting library cards."