It’s Worse Than They Expected

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On Monday, July 3rd, Lee County Tax Appraiser Matt Caldwell released the final tax roll figures for 2023. And for Fort Myers Beach the final numbers are even worse than first estimated back in June.

Out of all Lee County municipalities, Fort Myers Beach will take the biggest hit.

The total taxable value of properties on Fort Myers Beach in 2022 was $4.5 Billion. In 2023 that number will be $2.58 Billion, a drop of 42.4%. Back on June 2nd, Caldwell estimated the property values on Fort Myers Beach at $2.7 Billion, which would have been a 40% drop.
Local elected officials on Fort Myers Beach have been warning residents that this next year is going to be tough with so many houses destroyed or demolished due to Hurricane Ian and new business construction moving slowly because businesses are now starting from the ground up.

New taxable construction on Fort Myers Beach in 2022 was $44 Million. New taxable construction on Fort Myers Beach in 2023 will be approximately $1.22 million.

When comparing other Lee County municipalities, Sanibel will be down 33.4%, the City of Fort Myers will be down 12.9%, Cape Coral is down 14.18% and Bonita Springs is down 9%. Lee County is estimated to be down 9%.

What this will ultimately mean is less ad-valorem tax money to run the town and the need to rely more on state and federal financial help to keep the town afloat until homes can be rebuilt and new businesses can be constructed. Last month the Fort Myers Beach Town Council voted not to raise its millage rate on residents which will remain at .99 of $1,000 of assessed property value.

The town has applied for, and is awaiting answers from, both the Florida legislature and the federal government for funds to with its rebuild. That includes projects such as rebuilding Town Hall and Bayside Park among many other projects.

The town is hoping some state funds become available soon now that the new state budget has been passed. In June, state representative Adam Botana told the Fort Myers Beach Town Council that about $117 million is available for “this area.” Botana represents district 80 which includes Fort Myers Beach, Sanibel, Estero and Bonita.

Back in April Governor DeSantis awarded Fort Myers Beach an $11.9 million interest free bridge loan for operational expenses because of the impact of Hurricane Ian on the Town’s tax revenues and governmental operations.

 

40 COMMENTS

  1. Thank you BTR for keeping us updated. It will be a rough road ahead for us owners but we will get through it. You guys are doing a wonderful job. And I know it is not always easy. Some people love to kill the messengers. LOL.

  2. Holly O – you seem to have all the answers – let’s hear your plan.
    Imho, we need realistic assessments and goals and a roadmap.
    First thing any business or home owner would do in a time of financial crisis- that’s what the Beach needs to do immediately- face reality and take action and that means every line item in budget and YES, that includes Pay rates and head counts –
    We need a very small Govt , not what we had in 2022 – LESS is MORE when done right-
    We need to avoid all the strings that come attached to Fed and state money –

  3. How long would the enormous Margaritaville resort have taken to build from start to finish… if they had not been held up by lawsuits and delayed by Covid and Ian?

  4. I’m no accountant or financial expert, so I’m a little confused. The Town is going to get $2.58 BILLION, an $11.9 MILLION interest free loan and should be getting grant money from Resilient Lee. Put all the fluff projects on hold and focus on the infrastructure/essential projects. Helping all the current condo buildings and homeowners get back open, half (guess) the revenue stream will start coming back in SOON. 90% of the units on this island are vacant due to construction that can be completed faster than building new resorts/condos from ground up. Get them open, tax money will start coming in.

    • How do you think FMB will get any funds from Resilient Lee (CDBG-DR)??

      The loan is only interest-free if repaid within the relatively short time frame.

      What is the source of the “2.58 billion” you claim the Town is receiving??

      • The $2.58 is the new taxable values of properties, which is down 42.4%. That is just the base the ad valorem is multiplied against to get the Town’s cut. To be fair, she said she wasn’t an accountant or financial expert :).

        • Yikes. She said the town was going to get $2.58 billion, which is absurd. Thanks for letting me know where she got that number.

  5. Back in the early 80’s the beach businesses closed down and posted signs (See you in October) It was lovely. Not looking forward to Miami beach!

  6. Realistically it will be years before the taxable revenue is back up to pre-Ian levels, and that it is during the same time when FMB will need more resources than ever in its history. The responsible action is for the Town or the State to Unincorporate FMB so it can be financially sustained with County funds and be rebuilt quicker utilizing County resources. Then in 5 years it can be Incorporated again if that’s what the residents choose. Has the Town Council put their ego aside and even met with the County to discuss this option and agree on how it could be managed together?

    • And what makes you think that the rest of the county wants to pay for rebuilding FMB? If you unincorporate you lose local control. Of course, perhaps that is what you want.

      • Mike, Why would anyone want that? Every local I know wants FMB rebuilt in a thoughtful, planned, and quick manner. Why are you more worried about “control” than simply about finding the best solution to achieve those goals? It’s unarguable that the County has infinitely more funding and resources to achieve the rebuild goals. The only other option is to tax the hell out of the few remaining property owners (are you a Town taxpayer?) to pay for local Government or to hope that the State or Fed bails it out….and hope is not a strategy.

    • You are definitely on the right track. The moment I set foot back on Estero Island last year, it was apparent that the city would eventually need to unincorporate. While, I had hoped that FMB could get past its quirky, small-town clumsiness, it is really too big a task for such small potatoes at the helm.

      Pragmatically speaking (and with a broad brush – admittedly), the relative size of government needs to be commensurate with the size of the governed. When driving down Estero Blvd, and with most of the debris removed now, it’s reminiscent of a giant parking lot. Who’s left to govern? To me, just a 42% reduction? That seems generous!

      The optimum minimum municipality size has been the subject of study since the 70s. No matter which theory is subscribed, it seems clear that FMB is well below ANY optimal size to function efficiently, and was probably below that optimal even before the events of last fall. Given that, it DOES make sense to unincorporate for a period of time and function under county stewardship with a plan to merge with another city at some point in the future.

      • Thanks for the thoughtful reply. I understand and appreciate why it was incorporated in 1999 after Diamondhead was approved by the County, but acting as if the demographics and priorities are the same today as they were a 1999 is delusional. My question is simply why wouldn’t the Town Council request a meeting with the County Commissioners to discuss the possibility? I don’t have the answer, but perhaps the framework could include a town of Fort Myers Beach committee (perhaps existing Council members) who work in conjunction with the commissioners specific to zoning and redevelopment so there is a local voice represented in their decision making…or something to that effect. Again, nothing would prevent the town from incorporating again once it is back on its feet so what is the real hesitation?

    • The island will be full of taxable high-rises if the town goes unincorporated. Please take a look at Diamond Head as an example. No thanks that is obvious.

  7. A couple of thousand dollars here or there is not going to help much, we need revenue to start coming in, if that is large complexes to bring in the tourists then so be it. The town will collapse if we just sit here and do nothing because no one in the town wants it to change from what it was!

    • Those “large complexes” are YEARS away from being operational, even if they’re passed by LPA/TC.

      The revenue will return even without them. 🤦‍♀️

      • Holly o. You are misinformed. Please know there aren’t enough tax dollars from land alone. The “ bed tax” that the resorts collect goes to Lee County. Not directly to the municipal government. They must then apply for this money. Without this money the town would collapse in financial ruin. It’s vital these resorts reopen as fast as possible so that those funds can be applied for and used for the rest of the projects, like infrastructure etc.

    • The town has some open positions and is hiring. The pay for a permitting clerk is ~$35-45k/year. They won’t be able to afford to live on the island where they work as it is but gosh, how clever of you to suggest cutting pay.

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