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Council reveals wish list during budget review

June 11, 2014
By BOB PETCHER ( , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

Property taxes on Estero Island have not been raised for four consecutive years.

The Fort Myers Beach Town Council may make it five straight for fiscal year 2014-15 and discussed budget information during a recent work session at Town Hall.

Last September, 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). Using the 2012 calculation list, that number ranked the Beach as the 11th lowest municipality among 385 that levied taxes in the state, according to the website. The Town's overall budget for 2013-14 was nearly $37.3 million.

This year, with estimate values up (see page 1 story), Town officials are anticipating positive things in the early going of the budget season.

"At the end of the day, if we leave the tax levy, the millage rate, where it is and nothing spectacular happens, we should be still on the plus side of the budget," said Town Director of Finance Evelyn Wicks. "There are items that we get as revenue that are significant to our budget that are calculated by the state. For sales tax, communication service tax, we don't have those numbers yet. Those are likely to change. We generally are very close with our estimates."

The budget is expected to be adjusted in August. Wicks said the proposed budget will include a two percent cost-of-living raise for the employees.

Beach Mayor Anita Cereceda's wish list involved possible park impact fees money if a plan is approved for 216 Connecticut Street; a contracted person to be responsible for a Town of Fort Myers Beach newsletter on a quarterly basis to be mailed to all property owners on Estero Island; money set aside for landscaping and better lighting on Estero Boulevard to be installed simultaneously during county improvements on that road.

"I'd like for the Estero Boulevard project that the County is going to do to be as similar an experience for our residents and visitors as the north section of Estero Boulevard at this point," she said.

Underground utilities were also part of the initial wish list for the Beach's main road, but cost (estimated to be $100 million) may be too much to burden.

In her wish list, Councilwoman Rexanne Hosafros pitched in anticipated costs for a consultant for the aircraft over-flight problems and a more community friendly place to place the trash transfer station.

Councilwoman Summer Stockton added money to be placed in a sinking fund for a Town Hall purchase, a community garden, and money set aside for Town fireworks, an annual cost of $60,000 for two holidays that the Town has subsidized.

"I don't think it's the Town's responsibility to take over the fireworks," she said. "Businesses should raise the money, and we can match up to $20,000 or whatever it is."

Some of the dedicated projects/plans may require an increase in tax revenue, says Wicks.

"I think it's something certainly that we should take a really good look at and see if we can offset some of the costs by contributions," she said about fireworks.

"I don't think this is just a business issue," added Cereceda. "I think people come here from all over Lee County to see our fireworks. And, I think that a large contingency of residents want to see our fireworks."

Budget discussions will continue in August before the final millage rate is established prior to Sept. 30, 2014.



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