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FMB Town Council give nod to tax rate, budget

September 11, 2019
By JORDAN HESTER ( , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

The Fort Myers Town Council approved a property tax rate of .95 mills Monday night, as well as agreed to go forward with the current proposed budget numbers.

The elected board also set the second, and final, public hearing on next year's town budget for Sept. 23 at 5:01 p.m.

The town tax rate and budget - which includes a $7.07 million General Fund budget and an all funds total of $17.23 million- will undergo one more vote at the final public hearing.

Some controversy remains on the table.

"I can't support the .95 millage rate, given our rollback rate is down to .84. I don't want to store away money for projects we don't have the current vision for," Councilmember Joanne Shamp said.

One mill is equal to $1 for every $1,000 in taxable assessed valuation. On Fort Myers Beach, a home with an assessed taxable valuation of $100,000 would pay $950 per year in city taxes at the rate approved Monday.

The "rollback rate" is the rate at which the town would receive the same amount of revenue from property taxes as the year before.

The tax rate, and unstable revenue sources, led to some debate.

"Since I was first re-elected in 2014, I've talked about raising the budget, and we've operated on a pay-as-you-go manner; I definitely don't want to push funding issues off on the next council," Mayor Anita Cereceda said.

The motion carried 3 to 1 with Shamp voting against and Councilmember Bruce Butcher absent.

Staffing costs and project completions and beginnings, such as updating Times Square and continuing to update Bay Oaks, also drew discussion.

"At the lower end of our staffing, there have been some positions that haven't had a rate increase in 4 or 5 years that could be seeing an increase in their hourly rate of up to $5, so we have to make sure all of our numbers are above board and no one gets left behind," Roger Hernstadt, Town Manager, said.

A big point of ongoing contention was contract employees.

"I still don't know where all of our contract workers are situated in this budget, and I'm still pushing for hiring full time, in-house people," Councilmember Rexanne Hosafros said.

Each contract employee may provide multiple services, which is then divided throughout the budget, be it community development or zoning or code writing.

Another concern was the "marketing" expenditure, which is slated for $65,000 next year.

"This doesn't constitute a full-time position, but it's a tool we can use to get more accurate information out to our Town, through various social media outlets and otherwise. I don't think it's something we need done every day, but it lets us build our image as well," Hernstadt said.

Cereceda said that a full-time position might be something to look in to.

"We have so many different hands pitching into our social media, but I think it's time we hired someone to control our story, push our brand, make our Town foremost, instead of trying to piece meal these 'sometimes' efforts," Cereceda said.

The efforts to provide more accurate information on a more consistent basis, between town projects and upcoming events, is something the board is very interested in.

Town Hall is at 2525 Estero Blvd. Fort Myers Beach.



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