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City votes to hold line on millage rate

By Staff | Jul 26, 2017

The City Council voted to remain at 1.9139 mills for the proposed operating millage rate for the 2017 tax year last week.

The rolled-back rate for the City of Sanibel 2017 tax year is 1.8132 mills; the proposed aggregate millage rate was set at 2.2797; the millage levy for the sewer voted debt service is 0.1813 mills; the millage levy for the land acquisition voted debt service is 0.0690 mills and the millage levy for the Recreation Center voted debt service is 0.1155 mills.

The proposed aggregate taxes levied, exclusive of voted debt services levies, are $9,657,514.

“We are going to have to live within our means like we have every year,” Mayor Kevin Ruane said. “We certainly have some reserves that are in here.”

City Manager Judie Zimomra said Tuesday’s meeting was not the day to deliberate the line, by line departments, but rather establish the maximum millage rate for the general budget.

“Today you can subsequently take the millage lower, but you cannot go any higher of what you established today for this upcoming year’s budget,” Zimomra said.

Councilman Jim Jennings suggested that they set the millage rate higher this time because of all the concerns they have on the table.

“I know I have said that a lot of times in the past, but am comfortable with some of the good council that I have here. The mayor and vice mayor have stated over the years and made a case for lets go with the lower numbers. I think after all of this time of reducing, we must take a breath right now and maybe we have to go and look at a little bit higher. Let’s have that flexibility. That’s all I’m saying,” Jennings said.

Ruane said they are at 1.9 for the millage rate.

He went over some highlights of the budget, which included a 6.17 percent increase, approximately $530,000 more in revenue; flat tolls and 3 percent increase for sewer.

He said they will not be able to raise the millage rate enough to take care of the improvements for the Donax plant, resulting in taking on some debt.

“We will be going back up to Tallahassee for money, but understand that is an enterprise fund,” he said.

Another highlight of the budget Ruane discussed was beach parking. The current budget they have, he said entails a negative number, which Vice Mayor Mick Denham said is a proposed $1.4 million deficit.

“We have the same dilemma that we’ve had in the past,” he said. “We have either our citizens here pay for the deficit with beach parking, or we have the users do it. I’m certainly for advocating for going up to $5 an hour in beach parking. I know the media will certainly attack me for raising beach parking again, but my citizens pay enough through ad valorem taxes. The users have to pay for it.”

Ruane said from a basic guidelines point of view he is comfortable with the transportation dollars they should be getting from the county.

“I am comfortable with the 3 percent sewer increase. I am comfortable with what we have in beach parking recognizing we have a deficit,” he said.

The Recreation Center was another highlight of the budget Ruane discussed. He said they capped the Rec Center’s budget at $1.4 million. They are currently at $1.7 million, which Ruane said they need to find ways to bring that number down.

“I am more than willing to work with staff to look at cuts necessary inside of the Rec Center to get us back to the $1.4, or whatever the recommendation is,” Ruane said.

The next meeting will be held Tuesday, Aug. 1.