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Council starts budget talks, holds millage rate

By Staff | Jul 21, 2010

During Tuesday's City Council meeting, Mayor Kevin Ruane, left, congratulates Planning Department Director Jimmy Jordan for completing 25 years of service to the City of Sanibel.

During a lengthy City Council session, local leaders began their discussions on the Fiscal Year 2011 budget, introducing a millage rate of 2.3204, equal to last year’s approved operating rate.

Following a closed executive session, councilors reconvened on Tuesday afternoon to approve a resolution to notify the Lee County Property Appraisers office of Sanibel’s proposed operating millage rate, the rolled-back rate, the proposed aggregate millage rate, the millage levy for the sewer voted debt service, the land acquisition voted debt service and the Recreation Center voted debt service.

Mayor Kevin Ruane expressed thanks to City Manager Judie Zimomra and the city’s Financial Department for preparing the budget, and for keeping the millage rate identical to Fiscal Year 2010.

"This looks fine to me, but my goal up here is (to lower the millage rate to) 2.1561," said Ruane. "I’m of the opinion that since property values have gone down, people are looking for relief. Certainly, I think they’re entitled to it."

The proposed draft budget totals $44,454,824.

Mayor Kevin Ruane, left, thanks island residents and business owners Judy and Sharon Michie for helping raise the fund necessary to stage the city's annual Independence Day fireworks display. The pair helped gather $17,500 through private donations less than a month before July 4.

According to Zimomra, the city’s property values for FY2011 is $4,208,792,409, which is 6.77 percent lower than last year’s valuation. In the past decade, values climbed from FY2001 property valuation of $3.23 billion, peaking in FY2007 at $5.2 billion.

"The purpose of presenting City Council with a draft budget at the roll-back rate of 2.3204 is to provide City Council maximum flexibility in addressing potential environmental threats generated from either the Lake Okeechobee releases or the Deepwater Horizon oil spill," Zimomra’s July 13 memorandum stated.

Highlights of the FY2011 budget include:

• Total debt has been reduced by approximately $14.9 million in the past two years.

• Debt service payments have been reduced from $5,977,238 (FY2009) to $4,826,285 (FY2011).

• City salaries remain flat for the third consecutive year.

• Full-time city employees have been reduced to 122 (down from 142 in FY 2007) through attrition.

• $100,000 has been allocated to the beach parking fund, which could be applied toward a challenge grant or as a match toward a grant application for restoration of the Sanibel Lighthouse.

Following some discussions, residents David Bath and Wayne Ponader questioned the council why the details of the budget had not been provided in advance of Tuesday’s session. Zimomra informed them that the city’s website provides a link to download the budget. Copies may also be obtained in the City Clerk’s office and at the Sanibel Public Library.

"These talks are still in the preliminary stages," added Ruane, who offered to meet with any member of the public who wanted to discuss the budget in person. "We would like to gather as much public comment as possible."

The council will address budget issues at their next meeting, scheduled for Tuesday, Aug. 3 starting at 9 a.m. The first budget hearing will be held on Saturday, Sept. 11 at 10 a.m., with the final budget hearing set for Tuesday, Sept. 21 at 5:01 p.m. All meetings take place at MacKenzie Hall.