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Bay Oaks can pursue special tax-district status

21 of them exist in the state

May 30, 2016
By John Morton - Editor ( , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

Yes, there are special taxing districts in the state of Florida designed solely to support a recreational entity.

There are 21 of them, in fact, and with that information in hand the advisory board that serves Fort Myers Beach's Bay Oaks Recreation Campus can explore the concept of creating one if it chooses. The group is trying to find a way to make the campus self-sustaining, instead of an $800,000-plus strain each year on the town's budget.

Maureen Rischitelli, the town's director of administrative services, informed the board of the existence of such a path via confirmation from the state's Department of Economic Opportunity. Board member David Anderson suggested the concept be considered, if allowable, during a meeting last month.

To create a district that is independent would mirror that of a fire district, requiring elected board members and a separate tax to be paid by residents beyond the town's borders, encompassing all living in the 33931 ZIP code. Currently, the Bay Oaks funding comes only from taxes collected from Estero Island residents.

It would also require a referendum vote, and that would take immense planning and promotion. Therefore, Anderson said he plans to ask the Town Council to approve formation of an exploratory committee to keep things fluid.

"With the Bay Oaks board meetings taking place once per month, I don't think that's enough to keep momentum," he said. "We need some people to report to the council on a consistent basis. We need a way to get on its agenda more frequently."

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The Bay Oaks board serves only in an advisory capacity to the Town Council.

Anderson also hopes to once again position Bay Oaks as a regional force something it was supposed to be when created in 1986. In 2009, Lee County handed the aging complex off to the town.

"We need to reach a critical mass," he said. "We need to think about big-picture things such as working with businesses to get them on board with using Bay Oaks as a health facility for their employees. Bay Oaks could be part of a wellness plan."

Fact Box

What: Bay Oaks Recreation Campus Advisory Board meeting

When: 9 a.m. Thursday

Where: Town Hall, 2525 Estero Blvd. (in council chambers)

The Bay Oaks board next meets at 9 a.m. Thursday at Town Hall. Rischitelli will provide the members a second "snapshot" report on where the complex stands, with this month's presentation focusing on programming.



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