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City starts discussion for budget

By Staff | Jun 15, 2016

Budget discussions have begun a month earlier this year than in years past.

Sanibel City Council discussion regarding the preliminary budget touched upon many areas, including the building and planning department and beach parking.

City Financial Director Steve Chaipel said the June 1 property appraisal estimates that property valuation for the City of Sanibel came in just a hair under $4.7 billion, which is a little more than a 4 percent increase over last year’s July 1 numbers.

“It is the July 1 number that we use to set the millage rate. Right now we are looking at a 4.07 percent increase,” he said.

Mayor Kevin Ruane said historically there has been an increase between June 1 and July 1. He said when going through his briefing the 4 percent brings in approximately $350,000, so if the city moves up another percent it would be an additional $80,000 to $90,000 and if it’s a half percent it’s another $45,000.

“So, nothing significant that is going to change this budget whatsoever,” Ruane said.

The millage rate is currently at 1.9139 and the mayor would like to see remain the same going into the next fiscal year.

Chaipel provided some discussion points, or issues, for the City Council to start thinking about for the upcoming budget season. He said the planning department is a general fund department that several years ago during the economic downtown used roll back fees.

“The building fees were reduced pretty significantly over a couple year period. At that time a target fund balance of $500,000 was set as a minimal balance,” Chaipel said. “Currently the way the revenue and expenditures are progressing, we are going to hit that $500,000 balance probably sometime in fiscal year 18. It’s probably not to early to start looking at and evaluating the fees and expenditures in that department.”

Ruane said he would really like to see some kind of consolidation, or merging, between the building and planning department. He said the planning department continues to be a real draw and drain on the budget.

“We need to look at ways of efficiencies in planning and building to see what we can do. There are some surpluses there,” Ruane said.

Council member Chauncey Goss said he does not think the building department can be self supporting as they have been in the past because of build out. He agrees that the consolidation makes a lot of sense for the two departments.

“Eventually there are not going to be any building permits,” Goss said.

The recreation center, supported by the council’s direction last year, was supported by the general fund and capped at $1.4 million. Chaipel recommended the City Council look at revenue sources to support the Rec Center.

Ruane said he would like to continue to have staff go down to $1.4 million for the Rec Center.

The sewer fund with user fees and a capital project, as well as the beach parking fund were also addressed.

Ruane said he would certainly like to see what kind of difference increasing beach parking from $4 to $5 would be. He said the demand is certainly there as their cost escalates when taking care of the beaches.

“Im not saying I am going to go to $5 an hour, but I would like to see what the impacts might be,” he said.

Ruane said he would like to see a draft budget with the millage that is already set, some options available with the building and planning department, options of user fees that are in place for the Rec Center and keeping the cap at $1.4 million, a 3 percent increase for sewage and what those impacts would be and a projection of a $1 increase for beach parking.

“We had a negative $500,000. Do our citizens pay for it through the general fund, or do we raise beach parking? We do have 18 miles of beaches,” he said.

A unanimous vote passed regarding what Ruane would like staff to look into for the July meeting.

Follow Meghan @IslanderMeghan on Twitter.