Library Set to Reduce Taxes

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The Board of Directors of the Fort Myers Beach Public Library met late Tuesday afternoon, September 11, for their initial Public Budget Hearing for Fiscal Year 2019 – 2020 and the big topic of discussion was how much to lower taxes for district residents.

The Truth in Millage (TRIM) tax rate, submitted in July and appearing on property-owners TRIM notices mailed in late August, was set at the roll back tax rate (the rate at which the district would receive the same amount of taxes as the current year), 0.3271 or 32.71 cents per $1,000 of property valuation, though the board had discussed lowering the taxes earlier, but settled on the roll back rate as the TRIM rate.

Chair Sallie Seabury began the meeting with a moment of silence in honor of September 11, 2001 and the heroes of that day.

Assistant Library Director John Lukow presented the budget to the board, noting that he’d heard their previous comments and used the roll back rate and also put more in reserves for future projects. He presented three levels of funding, the initial proposed rate of .2774, the roll back rate of .3271 and a “middle ground” rate of .3023.

Lukow explained that in developing this year’s budget, the first since former Library Director Leroy Hommerding’s death in January 2019, he used the past four years of actual income and expenses to calculate the 2019 – 2020 proposed budget.

Seabury questioned a $25,000 donation line item, noting that this has been an unusual year and they can’t expect that to continue. Lukow said that the Friends of the Library had notified him that they already have a $20,000 donation that they plan to give the library in October. The additional $5,000 is about average for donations each year.

10% Decrease

Ed Scott said that he would like to see the rate set at .3020, instead of the .3023 “middle ground” level, because then it could be said that the library board lowered the library taxes 10% from the current year (0.3356). “I don’t care about the roll back rate; I want to be able to say that we lowered taxes 10% compared to last year,” Scott insisted.

Rick Sebastian agreed with him, asking Lukow what that would do to the budget. Lukow explained that would lower tax revenue for the library by about $1,267 and reduce the reserves by the same amount.

Jan Fleming cautioned that dropping the tax rate too low would be a problem if you came back the next year and needed to raise it, saying she favored sticking with the roll back rate.

Following discussion, the board voted unanimously to support the 0.3020 tax rate and moved it to the Final Budget hearing on September 24 at 6pm, prior to the regular monthly board meeting.

The board then voted to tentatively approve the proposed budget based on the 0.3020 tax rate, totaling $1,388,975.

Before adjourning, Seabury introduced Sandy Walker, who has submitted her application to the Florida governor’s office, to join the board, taking the seat left vacant by Miffie Greer who moved out of the district. The governor has not yet appointed anyone to fill the seat.

The Library Board will next meet on Tuesday, September 24, with their Final Budget Hearing at 6pm and their regular monthly meeting at 6:30pm.

A copy of the proposed budget is expected to be published on the Library’s website prior to the next Budget Hearing.