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County may approve millage rate increase for coming fiscal year

By Staff | May 13, 2009

The Lee County Commission will set the millage rate for the next fiscal year on July 6, and the rate may rise as property values are predicted to plummet nearly 30 percent.
With 92 taxing authorities in Lee County, Property Appraiser Ken Wilkinson said his office needs plenty of time to meet the Aug. 3 “drop dead” date to report to the state.
The county is expecting a budget deficit in the range of $90 million to $100 million for the next fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1.
The millage rate could change between July and September, depending on two budget workshops scheduled for summer and fall. If the rate changes after July 6, it would be finalized by September in time for the start of the next fiscal year.
Wilkinson warned commissioners that the 30 percent decrease is merely an estimate, and it could change before August.
“In my mind, and without getting too far ahead of the taxing authorities, I’m seeing a 30 percent decrease,” he said.
Commissioners also approved terms of a salary for interim Lee County Manager Karen Hawes. The contract, valued at $170,000 a year, comes out to just over $14,000 a month.
Hawes told commissioners Monday that she hopes to find a permanent replacement for Don Stilwell within six months, and then return to her position as director of Lee County Human Services.
Commissioners began the process of permanently replacing Stilwell on Monday by directing staff to recommend a recruiting agency out of three companies.
The firms are Colin Baezinger and Associates, Slavin Management Consultants and Ralph Andersen and Associates. Of the three, Colin Baezinger and Associates is the only Florida-based company.
Hawes and her staff are expected to make a recommendation in three weeks. She said she is motivated to make certain the selection process runs smoothly so she can return to her permanent position.
“I’m certainly motivated with getting the timeline going,” Hawes said Monday.