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City council caps tax rate for next year

By TIFFANY REPECKI / trepecki@breezenewspapers.com - | Jul 26, 2021

The Sanibel City Council reviewed the city’s draft budget for fiscal year 2021-22 and approved a tentative operating millage rate of 1.8922 — the same as the current rate — at its recent meeting.

On July 20, the council voted 5-0 on a resolution to advise the Lee County Property Appraiser of the proposed millage rate, along with a rolled-back rate of 1.8289 and a proposed aggregate millage rate of 2.1584, which includes millages levied of 0.1303 for the sewer service, 0.0330 for land acquisition and 0.1029 for the recreation center. Exclusive of those three debt-voted services, the proposed aggregate taxes levied are approximately $10,625,615.

The millage rate can be lowered but not raised during the budget process.

Prior to the vote, Finance Director Steve Chaipel provided an overview of the draft budget being proposed. He reported that property valuations hit another record high, with over $5.6 billion in taxable property for Sanibel. Retaining the 1.8922 rate would bring in an additional $354,000 in revenue.

The proposed $75,304,820 budget includes the general fund, all special revenue funds, all capital project funds, the enterprise funds, interfund transfers, all reserves and the beginning fund balances. The executive summary prepared by staff as part of the draft budget outlined the following items:

– The budget includes $280,000 in revenue related to the continuation of the city’s short term rental compliance program.

– All council designated reserves have been restored to fiscal year 2020 levels — a total of $5.89 million in the General fund.

– As drafted, there is currently no funding included in the budget for personnel costs related to wage increases or changed in health care premiums.

– To support the annual road and shared use path maintenance programs and completion of several transportation capital projects that have been delayed in the past several years, transfers from the General fund to both the Transportation and Transportation Capital Project funds are included in the budget. A total of $900,000 is being transferred between the two funds.

– The Transportation Capital Improvement fund includes $1.06 million in grant funding for specific projects included in the current budget.

– The budget includes $650,000 in funding for efficiency improvements in the Building department (funded by the Building Fund).

– The budget includes personnel, operating and capital expenditures to operate the Recreation Center and the Center 4 Life consistent with programming and hours of operation in place pre-pandemic in 2019.

– Consistent with city council policy, the budget includes a 1 percent increase in the General Fund transfer to the Recreation Fund to $1.37 million.

– The budget includes the annual $225,000 transfer to the Recreation Center Sinking fund established by city council in 2013 to proactively fund capital purchases and repairs at the Recreation Center facility. An additional $225,000 is included in the current budget to catch-up the transfer that was not made in fiscal year 2021 due to budget constraints.

– The city secured a loan for $15 million in June 2020 — $5 million for the relocation and renovation of the Center 4 Life senior center and $10 million to support the continued funding of the Donax wastewater treatment plan rehabilitation. The budget includes the first year of principal and interest payments as per the debt agreement (fiscal year 2021 was interest only).

– Funding for the city’s supported non-profits is budgeted per contractual agreements. Community Housing Resources funding support increased 5 percent to $394,740 from fiscal year 2021 and the Historical Village and Museum support is budgeted at $50,000.

During discussion, the council voiced support for the proposed millage, explaining that it would provide the necessary dollars in the coming year to run the city. However, many on the council also shared that the city needs to look ahead to the future and consider the consecutive years’ budgets.

The first budget hearing is Sept. 13 at 5:01 p.m., with the second and final one on Sept. 27.

To view the draft budget prepared for the meeting, visit SANIBEL DRAFT BUDGET.

IN OTHER NEWS

– The council voted 5-0 on the annual assessment to fund the collection and disposal of solid waste, recyclables and horticultural waste for 2021-22, as well as set a public hearing to consider its adoption.

– The council voted 5-0 on a solid waste rate structure for 2021-22, established solid waste, recyclables and horticulture waste rates for residential, commercial and multi-family properties, and approved a solid waste franchise fee and solid waste disposal surcharge.

– The council voted 5-0 to request that ADG Architecture prepare cost estimates for both options outlined in its stand-alone building study of two alternative sites for the Sanibel Police Department.

– The council voted 4-1 for road safety improvements to be implemented on Sanibel-Captiva Road, near the American Legion, as recommended by staff. Councilmember John Henshaw dissented.