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Editorial: Be a part of city’s budget process

By Staff | Jul 13, 2011

When the City Council meets on Tuesday, they are expected to discuss preliminary plans for the Fiscal Year 2012 budget. As part of those discussions, they are required to introduce next year’s proposed millage rate.

For the past three years, councilors — thanks in great part to the city’s Finance Department — have been able to keep Sanibel’s millage rate in check. Last year, they had introduced a rate of 2.3204 mills, equal to FY2009’s approved operating rate. However, the rate was lowered prior to final adoption of the budget because, as Mayor Kevin Ruane stated, “I’m of the opinion that since property values have gone down, people are looking for relief.”

We couldn’t agree more.

In June, after the Lee County Property Appraiser’s Office announced that taxable property values on Sanibel had dropped for the fourth consecutive year (1.16 percent), City Manager Judie Zimomra stated that the millage rate would be introduced no greater than 2.1561 for FY2012.

We certainly hope so. But are we asking for too much?

On the surface, the decline in taxable property values on the island — which peaked at $5.20 billion back in 2007 — might suggest that any indications for economic recovery might still be years away. However, the only minor dip from 2010 ($4.21 billion) to 2011 ($4.16 billion) seems to offer a glimmer of hope.

But the real heroes behind the city’s ability to provide a high level of municipal services within the community, while at the same time lowering Sanibel’s total debt, are not only the dedicated councilors, management and various department staff. Much thanks and appreciation goes to the community itself.

Where else in these United States would you find a citizenry who takes as much pride in preserving nature and wildlife as it does in championing the environment? Take the Bailey Homestead project introduced by the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation, for instance. It took less than nine months to collect $5.3 million in capital in order to acquire the 28.3-acre parcel of prime, mid-island real estate.

Another case-in-point: For the third year in a row, islanders again picked up the tab — previously paid for by the city — for the annual Independence Day fireworks display, a $12,000-plus budget savings. Local leaders made a difficult decision to trim the expense, yet nary a single complaint was heard from the patriotic populace.

That’s just the kind of community Sanibel is.

We encourage our readers to attend the City Council’s first meeting discussing the FY2012 municipal budget, which starts at 9 a.m. this Tuesday, July 19, and take an active role in shaping the future of Sanibel. Speak up for what you want from your city — your opinions are invaluable and your participation could not be appreciated more.

— Reporter editorial