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Town Council raises preliminary millage rate

Rate would go up from .95 to .99 to support extra policing, other projects

By Nathan Mayberg - Editor | Jun 9, 2021

With a number of projects on its plate including potentially adding community policing, new lighting downtown and renovations at Bay Oaks and Times Square, the council voted to preliminarily raise its millage rate from .95 to .99 by a vote of 4-1.

Councilmember Jim Atterholt voted against the increase.

Atterholt said that he believed an increase in property tax values could provide enough cushion for the town to hold the line at its current millage rate at .95.

Town of Fort Myers Beach Manager Roger Hernstadt said increasing property values could bring in another $250,000 to $300,000 in revenue. Mayor Ray Murphy said the town’s property values now exceed $3 billion.

Vice Mayor Rexann Hosafros said that based on her experience, the revenue from increasing property values typically will get eaten up by increasing expenses, such as salaries. Hosafros said it is her hope the town won’t have to raise the millage rate ultimately.

Councilmember Bill Veach said the town has “a lot of projects going on that have a lot of potential cost overruns. We are also borrowing a lot of money that may change interest rates. Veach said that raising the town’s millage rate preliminarily was “fiscally prudent” while council awaits to see the public’s reaction to new spending items being considered such as community policing.

Atterholt said he envisioned using reserve money for a pilot program for community policing. The cost of community policing for two deputies is estimated to be approximately $220,000.

Hernstadt said the town’s millage rate left residents an average tax bill of approximately $400.

The council will hold budget hearings in September and could elect to reduce its millage rate from .99. Hernstadt said the town is also searching for a new finance director.