Budget Season Interrupted by Irma

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When property owners received their Truth in Millage (TRIM) notices in August, they included the dates of required initial public budget hearings for each taxing district held in September each year prior to the beginning of the fiscal year on October 1st.

Then Hurricane Irma came to town and blew many of those dates out the window. The executive director of the state Department of Revenue, Leon Biegalski issued an order on September 6th temporarily waiving the requirement that hearings be held prior to October 1. Based on Governor Rick Scott’s issuance of a state of emergency order on September 4th, the extension allowed taxing districts to reschedule hearings through October 4th.

Some of our local taxing districts forged ahead with scheduled hearings in spite of the approaching storm or in the days following the storm. The Town of Fort Myers Beach kept to its schedule of September 7 and 21. Lee County held its hearings on September 14 and 19. The Fort Myers Beach Mosquito Control Board held their hearings on September 8 and September 15.

The Beach Library cancelled their first hearing on September 11th and scheduled their hearings for September 26 and October 4.

The Fort Myers Beach Fire Control District cancelled their hearings on September 14 & 28 and rescheduled them for September 26 and October 2.

FMB Fire District

During their rescheduled first Budget Hearing on Tuesday, September 26th, the Fort Myers Beach Fire Control District Board tentatively approved a tax rate of 2.58 and a budget of $17,756,900. A home in the district would pay $258 in fire district taxes per every $100,000 of taxable value, under this tax rate.

The 2016-2017 tax rate was the same as the proposed rate – 2.58, but the proposed budget for next year is up about $1.4 million to $17,756,900.

The Fire District’s reserve funds are included in their annual budget. Totaling $5,527,320 or 31% of the total 2017-2018 budget, the individual fund totals are: Millage Sustainment – $1,012,000; Re-Cap Sustainment/Operating Bridge – $2,845,770; Disaster/Emergency – $1,050,000 and Post-Employment Benefits – $619,550. Pulling the reserves out, the operating budget would be $12,229,580 for 2017-2018.

The breakdown of the operating budget by categories looks like this: Personal Services $9,004,400 or 74%; Capital Expenses $1,044,080 or 9%; Professional & Contractual $502,550 or 4% and Operating Supplies/Tools $383,120 or 3%. The complete proposed 2017-2018 budget is available on the district’s website fmbfire.org under “Administration” then “Board of Commissioners.”

Fire Chief Matthew Love devoted a good portion of the initial budget hearing to explaining the district’s Re-Capitalization & Sustainment Plan, designed to continually assess the lifespan of equipment and establish a funding mechanism to have funds available when a piece of equipment is ready for replacement.

“The result is a ‘catch-up’ plan as the district had a fair amount of assets that were behind where they should be as far as replacement,” Love said.

“We have an ongoing assessment of lifespan and replacement value and this creates a calculation-based reserve fund balance. The benefit of this is it’s not a ‘shot in the dark’ type of number. Our reserve balance is exactly what we computed it should be.

“Our goal is to keep a consistent budget model year after year.”

The Fire District’s final Budget Hearing will be held on Monday, October 2, 2017 at 5:05pm at the Beach Library, 2755 Estero Blvd., Fort Myers Beach, in the third floor meeting room.

Beach Library Budget

During their first budget hearing on Tuesday, September 26th, the Library Board tentatively approved a tax rate of 0.3498 and a 2017-2018 budget of $1,388,841. A home in the district would pay $34.98 in library taxes per every $100,000 of taxable value, under this tax rate.

The 2016-2017 tax rate was 0.3499, or a penny more per $100,000 taxable value than next year’s proposed rate. The total budget for 2016-2017 was $1,363,983.

Several reserve funds will be “fed” at the end of the current fiscal year also. The additional funds are part of the 2016-2017 budget, with amounts remaining essentially the same for next year’s budget. The current reserve balances as of August 31, 2017 for the following reserve accounts and the amount budgeted to be added by October 1st are: Equipment/Building Replacement Reserve $1,345,000 ($125,283), Catastrophe Fund $1,230,000 ($45,000) and Total Solar Reserve $985,000 ($70,000).

Next year’s budget, providing that it is approved at the final budget hearing on October 4th, includes Personnel Expenses: $707,086 or about 51% of the operating budget; Reserve Funding: $240,900 or 17% of the budget, Plant & Equipment Expenses: $231,900 – 16% of the budget and Capital Outlay: $92,300 or 7% of the budget. Other budget categories include: Administrative Expenses $76,840, Library Expenditures $39,815. The proposed 2017-2018 Beach Library budget can be found on the library’s webpage www.fmb.lib.fl.us under “About Us” and “Board of Directors.”

Library Director Dr. Leroy Hommerding has explained that he hopes to build the building replacement reserves so that the district can self-insure itself and save on insurance costs. The Library Board is also saving funds in the Total Solar reserves to add solar panels to make the building energy self-sufficient.

Increases in the operating budget include the purchase of computer software (up 57.5%) in the next year along with increases in the Florida Retirement System (up 13.45%) and insurance costs (up 6%). Under the proposed 2017-2018 budget the library would be spending less on books (down 4.88%) legal advertising (down 11.11%), building improvements (down 11.11%) and copier/fax expenses (down 14.29%).

The final Budget Hearing to approve the tax rate and 2017-2018 budget will be held at the Beach Library in the third floor meeting room on Wednesday, October 4 at 5:15pm.

 

Missy Layfield