Fort Myers Beach Deserves Stable Finances

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Guest Commentary

I am writing this letter because I will be unable to attend the meetings on September 7th and 21st at 6:30pm where our Town Council will be discussing the subject of our millage rate. I feel so strongly about this that I wish to encourage everyone to attend and speak out!

The millage rate, set by Town Council, determines the financial Health of our Town and the vital necessities required to keep our Island functioning in a timely manner. We as resident taxpayers are fortunate that we can speak about any concerns we have about the budget at these meetings!

Much time has been given to the Town Council’s Strategic Plan, finalized last week, which listed all the required goals and projects along with a timeline entered on the town’s calendar for the coming fiscal year. I was in awe listening to all that is ahead for them from storm management, short term rentals, payroll needs, Beach and Bay Policy, Dock and Canals, well the list goes on and on. All of this stressed the importance that “A Fiscally Responsible Tax Millage Rate” be established.

I realize property values have increased and once calculated will provide additional revenue to the town, but it’s just not enough! My concern is that the council will keep the rate the same as last year and not heed the recommendations of our present and former interim Manager’s who both felt the need to go to 0.9. There is a vital need to build up our financial reserves. I hasten to add that when the millage was kept at .8 we in the audience watched opportunities being marginalized because, as it was reported in our newspaper, we were on emergency funding at that time. Operating this way just isn’t what we deserve. The changing nature of our Island will only further strain resources as demands increase.

I am astounded that only 5% of our property tax bill goes to our town. In my case at the above rate of .9, my taxes to the town will be $198.26, whereas $697.34 goes to the Fire Department for their needs and $94.57 to the Library. The other six entities on your notice – School, Mosquito Control, etc, take up the rest. Different services require different needs and to maintain the adequacy of everything our town provides, plus tackle the wonderful projects we all heard about at the planning meeting, I feel it is extremely important that we prudently set the millage rate at .9. We should never be on emergency mode and must build up our capital reserves.

This 7-mile barrier island is so unique, where else can you find Matanzas Preserve’s 52-acre forest, Bowditch Point, Beach Pool, Bay Oaks, Newton Park, Mound House, beach accesses to a beach beyond compare, a community school, an amazing Library, 2 Firehouses, wonderful restaurants, shops, bars and marina?

I urge residents to attend the budget meetings on the 7th and 21st.

 

Ceel Spuhler
Fort Myers Beach