The five members of the Fort Myers Beach Fire Control District approved the 2016-2017 budget of $16,044,476, along with a millage rate of 2.58 to support that budget on Wednesday evening by a vote of 4-1. Chair Carol Morris, Vice-Chair Ted Schindler, Commissioner Larry Wood and Commissioner Bob Raymond voted yea, while Commissioner John Pohland voted nay.
Last year’s tax rate was 2.48 for a budget of $15,188,829.
Fire Chief Matthew Love explained in the budget report that the budget prioritizes firefighter training and compensation, information and technology, rolling stock, facilities and administrative support.
Lagging capital replacement in the district, a result of several years of economic challenges have resulted in fire engines and support vehicles that are well past their expected lifespans and in need of replacement. Love explained that the district has established a multi-year capital replacement program for vehicles and apparatus to “catch up.”
“This plan is designed to sustain the district’s operations, not expand them” said Love at the first budget hearing. “We want to simply sustain what we do today. When a piece of equipment expires, we’ll be in a position to replace it.”
Pohland voted against both millage and budget, indicating they were too high.
“I’m still stuck on it being too much tax, too often,” Pohland said. “I’d rather see it a lot lower, even the rollback rate. We’ll see how it goes and maybe we can do it next year.”
Schindler and Morris both said they’d like the rate to be lower, but understood the need for the higher rate.
“I’m not happy since I have to pay the bills as I live in the district, ”Morris said. “Sometimes you’re not happy for the bill, but it’s what you have to pay for the service.”
“I’m unhappy that we have to make it this high,” added Schindler, “but we have to catch up on the capital expenditures.”
The approved budget can be found at fmbfire.org.
The Fire Board’s next scheduled meeting is Tuesday, October 4, 2016 at 10am at Fire Station 31, 3043 Estero Blvd., Fort Myers Beach.