The Captiva Erosion Prevention District voted 4 to 1 to increase the millage rate during a tentative budget hearing late last week. The rate, which now can be lowered but not raised, is a little more than 10 percent over the roll back rate of .2557.
Millage tax is an ad valorem tax levy on the value of property the owner is required to pay to a government in which the property is situated. The rate can be found on personal property tax statements and is typically multiplied by the total taxable value of the property to arrive at the property tax value. This formula is often used by school districts to determine taxes collected within its district.
"The CEPD ad valorem tax proposed an increased levy of under $40,000 and 100 percent of the levy was needed for increased reserves for the next beach nourishment project scheduled for 2013/14," said Chairman Mike Mullins, who voted against the proposed millage rate. "The board did the right thing and my personal 'no' vote was not intended to affect the outcome, since the board already had four votes in favor."
Senior administrator Kathy Rooker said it will be difficult to get funding from the county and federal governments and CEPD reserves need built up for tasks in the future like the next beach nourishment project.
Captiva Island generates more than $100 million annually in tourism as an award-winning vacation destination with well-nourished beaches. Islanders pay about $3 million annually in bed taxes, yet some feel the island is virtually un-represented by Lee County commissioners and the Tourism Development Council, which receives 5 percent of the county's tourist tax.
Mullins said his vote, though moot, was "symbolic in support of Captiva's exploited taxpayers." Captiva's survival depends upon the public beaches and the county provides very little financial assistance to maintain them or any of the island.
In the 1980s, Lee County's failure to protect Captiva Drive, a county road, resulted in a total washout and left islanders without a passable road for 14 days. Had there been a severe storm, Mullins pointed out, the county's recklessness could have been disastrous. And, he feels Lee County continues to "shirk" its responsibility to pay a fair share to fund Captiva's public beach, the county road and beach parks.
"Captivan's pay four times more than Lee County and the county still argues for us to give money back," Mullins said. "They say the 10 cents on the dollar they had paid was too much."
Since Mullins feels Captiva property owners already pay too much in taxes, his vote against the increased millage rate was his way of protesting Lee County's embarrassingly low contribution to the island.
"Fortunately, we are well represented by the CEPD board which has made great success despite this county's 'back of the hand' recklessness," Mullins said.
In addition, board members unanimously passed the 2011/12 tentative budget of $346,319 supported by the .2823 millage rate. The final CEPD budget hearing will be held at 5:01 p.m. Sept. 22 in the Ding Darling room at 'Tween Waters Inn. It is open to the public.