Town Council Workshop
On Thursday afternoon, the Town Council of Fort Myers Beach held their final public workshop on the proposed 0.8 millage rate and budget for the 2016/2017 fiscal year. Despite some residents’ concerns about funding for Bay Oaks and two councilmembers who thought that 0.8 was too low, Council moved the budget forward as-is to the final public hearing later that evening.
San Carlos Island resident and Bay Oaks supporter Charlie Whitehead voiced concerns about Bay Oaks and said the proposed budget shortchanges the taxpayers and residents.
“What I see is a Bay Oaks budget that is going down,” he said. “The existing number is less than what Lee County had hammered the facility down to in the years leading up to it being dumped in the Town’s lap in 2009.”
First up was a discussion on a new budget policy created by the Audit Committee.
“The Town has adopted various policies to provide guidance in the Town’s financial matters,” said Interim Town Manager Jim Steele. “This formalizes the budget process and follows the state statutes. It deals with emergency needs, and what would be required of the Town Manager should the manager notice there are insufficient funds. It talks about reserve requirements for the general fund, water utility, stormwater utility and gas tax fund.”
Steele then gave a brief outline of the cash flow projections for the four areas listed above and concluded by saying that the Town ‘is going to be in pretty good shape by the end of this year’.
“There will be a 6-month budget report in March of next year,” he said.
Council member Tracey Gore asked if the amount that could be spent administratively – without Council approval – be reduced from $25,000 to $10,000.
“That’s why we have a six-month report, if we find – during the year – that something doesn’t work, we can bring it back,” said Administrative Services Director Maureen Rischitelli.
During a discussion on the budget, Council member Rexann Hosafros once again went on record to say that she’d like to set a slightly higher mil rate as requested by Steele in August. Council member Anita Cereceda agreed.
Stockton asked about Whitehead’s comments, and Rischitelli said the information provided by Whitehead has been discussed both with Council and the Bay Oaks Recreation Campus Advisory Board (BORCAB).
“Our goal at Bay Oaks is to take staff we have, utilize them and advertise for a director, and start engaging the community as to what services they’d like to see there” she said. “We stay with the core services, build it, then evaluate programming to capture dollars to pay for it. For instance, if Danielle is going to take the seniors to Tampa, then the charge for that trip needs to cover the cost of paying a staff member to take her place for a few hours. You’ve given us the dollars to work with, so we need to be creative. It is a challenge, but we need to be accountable to the community and Council.”
Stockton asked what the salary would be for a new director for Bay Oaks, and Rischitelli replied that would range from $75,000 to $100,000. The former director, Randy Norton, received a salary of $114,000 (including benefits).
Gore said ‘she’s satisfied’ with Bay Oaks’ budget.
“And I’ve talked to Jim – if something comes up, we have money in reserves,” she said.
Cereceda said she doesn’t like the idea of having to rely on reserves before the fiscal year even begins.
Rischitelli said staff has made amendments to the proposed fee schedules and Cereceda reported that the Anchorage Advisory Committee (AAC) recommends that the daily rate for boats in the mooring field be raised 13% to $18.
Council made no changes to the plans for the Town’s 5-Year CIP (Capital Improvement Projects). These include: $400,000 for Bay Oaks improvements – air conditioning, tennis court resurfacing, flooring and lighting upgrade; $150,000 for pool improvements – kiddie pool resurfacing, pool deck upgrades and a geo thermal pool heater and the stormwater and waterline replacement projects as well as $150,000 for bay access improvements For Fiscal Year 17/18, $90,000 is designated for air conditioning and a dehumidifier at the Mound House.
Finally, Steele explained that minimum fund balance requirements have been set for the General Fund (20% of the proposed budget; Gas Tax Fund ($500,000), Stormwater Management Utility (about $150,000) and Water Utility (six months of operating expense).
Keri Hendry Weeg