Manager Proposes Higher Fees All Around

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Earlier this year Fort Myers Beach Town Manager Roger Hernstadt told the town council the town was in “sound financial shape.” This week he proposed a budget with huge fee hikes on everything from weddings to using the gym at Bay Oaks to the town pool. And there’s a millage rate increase being considered.

It all began Tuesday when Hernstadt told the Bay Oaks committee that the town might have to forgo its beach renourishment project or ditch plans to light Estero Boulevard if they didn’t increase fees at Bay Oaks and the pool. Residents on Fort Myers Beach have been able to use the gym at Bay Oaks at no charge and there hasn’t been an increase in any fees at Bay Oaks for 11 years. Several years ago the town borrowed $10 million for 3 major projects. One of them was a new Bay Oaks campus. About $5.5 million will be used to build the new facility. However the town doesn’t have any money to put anything in the new building, ie; fixtures, furniture, equipment, etc.

Hernstadt’s 2022-2023 budget also includes big fee increases on licenses for chair rental businesses, jet ski and parasail operations, and anyone that wants to get married on a beach access. Mooring field rates would also go up if the budget is approved.

Here are some of the proposed fee increases. They certainly could change before final budget is approved.

Pool Fees
Now                                                                 PROPOSED
Residents/Individual                                     Residents/Individual
1 week – $15.00                                     6 months – $150
1 month – $40.00                                     1 year – $250
1 year – $60.00
Residents/Family                                         Residents/Family
1 week – $25.00                                     6 months – $300
1 month – $75.00                                     1 year – $500
1 year – $125.00
Non-Residents/Individual                         Non-residents/Individual
1 week – $20.00                                     6 months – $300
1 month – $55.00                                     1 year – $500
1 year – $75.00
Non-Residents/Family                             Non-residents/Family
1 week – $40.00                                     6 months – $600
1 month – $85.00                                     1 year – $1,000
1 year – $150.00

The Bay Oaks Fitness center fees, which are now free, have been proposed to go to:
$50 per individual (resident) for 6 months
$100 per individual (resident) for 1 year
$100 per family (resident) for 6 months
$200 per family (resident) for 1 year
$100 per individual (non-resident) for 6 months
$200 per individual (Non-resident) for 1 year
$200 per family (non-resident) for 6 months
$400 per family (non-resident) for 1 year.

Special event fees
Now: $100 for the first day and $1 for every additional day.
Proposed: $100 for the first day and $100 for every day after that.

In addition to the fee hikes, the town is also considering raising the millage rate.

The millage rate now is .95 per $1,000 of assessed property valuation. The town council has approved a starting point of .99 per $1,000 of assessed property valuation. The final number could come down, but it cannot go higher than the .99. If the council votes in the millage rate increase it will bring in an additional $170,000 to the town. Skyrocketing property values will also net the town an additional $660,000 in revenue.

The challenge Hernstadt is having is coming up with money for all the projects the town council wants accomplished. A few of them are extremely expensive. Here’s the list Hernstadt provided last month:
– Electric charging stations ($115,000)
– Beach renourishment ($3.5 million)
– Estero Boulevard street lights (cost unknown)
– Workforce Housing (between $0 and $6 million according to Hernstadt)
– Bay Oaks furniture, fixtures and equipment for the new building (cost not given)
– A new parking app ($125,000 plus $15,000 per year)
– Community Policing and special detail policing (several hundred thousand)
– What to do with the property the town purchased for $1 million behind town hall.

These projects are in addition to the new Bay Oaks building, Bayside Park and Times Square. The town borrowed $10 million for those projects which is not expected to cover all the costs.

Hernstadt told the town council if there was no add-on list the town would be fine. He said even if the millage rate was increased, Fort Myers Beach would still be in the bottom 10 of all the municipalities in the state (in terms of millage rate per $1,000 of assessed property valuation).

Fort Myers Beach incorporated in the mid 1990’s, breaking away from Lee County to slow the growth of the high-rise buildings, and under the mantra of ‘Government Lite.” The town now has a population of full-time residents of about 5,500. That’s down from 6,400 in 2019, according to Lee County figures.

 

12 COMMENTS

  1. Is there more than one pool in FMB or are these proposed fees for the Fort Myers Beach Community Pool listed on the fortmyersbeachfl.gov website? If this is the FMB Community Pool, will guests visiting FMB no longer have the option of purchasing a 1-week or 1-monthl pass?

  2. Your telling me that raising fees at Bay Oakes will pay for $3.5 million dollars for beach re-nourishment???
    How stupid does this idiot think we are
    The beach is the crown jewel that bring people here

  3. I wonder if the town manager and council spend their own money this way. I doubt very much if they spend their money needlessly and then worry about how they are going to pay for it later. We need people in office that do serious thinking before they spend taxpayer money.

  4. This just shows the ineptitude and incompetence from the Town Manager. He mismanaged and pushed through all these projects, and now wants the residents to pay even more to keep them going. Our council just rubber stamps what he wants. Pathetic. I keep hearing the leaders of this town talk about being “Family Friendly” – my ass. Do they understand just how expensive it is to raise a family on this island? The island family community here is second to none, all awesome people, but this Town Manager, Mayor and current council (most of them) are doing NOTHING but driving families away from living on the island. What a shame no one in a leadership position has the fortitude to push the results we need with a town manager. We need a change in this next election, and soon after, Roger needs to go (along with the Town Attorney).

    If they didn’t waste so much money on lawsuits and fighting with Lee County maybe the town could actually offer some amenities to the town residents instead of nickle, dime and dollaring them to death.

  5. The proposed fees are too high!! Will decrease use. Is the town going to own the charging stations and collect the monies? Why would the town spend this kind of money for affordable housing? And what did the town intend to do with the property behind the town hall? Why was it bought? Town should make a priority list and save for future projects like the rest of us do!!

  6. I don’t understand why the town would be responsible for work force housing? We do not have the land available.
    Wouldn’t the logical solution be working with economic development of Lee County to encourage developers with special tax incentives to build work force housing near the beach? There are parcels of land just off the island that could be viable solutions for this.

    • Exactly Dawn! The town does not need to get into the housing development/property management business! Rather, partner with Lee County (novel thought!) and benefit from programs already in place, then expand towards the beach. Make your voices heard Beach Voters! Vote Karen Woodson “Right Time. Right Choice.”

  7. Fees are fairer than raising tax rates all around. If you use Bay Oaks, you pay a little. If you don’t use it, you don’t pay anything extra (since your taxes ALREADY were used to build the new facility).

  8. Bay Oaks fees are only free for residents right now…your article does not make it clear that non residents do pay a fee currently… The fees are way too high for residents and non residents… Bay Oaks is a COMMUNITY center and these rates will turn away alot of our community… Doesn’t make any sense…

  9. Bay Oaks fees are only free for residents right now…your article does not make it clear that non residents do pay a fee currently… FMB residents pay taxes and that includes using Bay Oaks… The fees are way too high for residents and non residents… Bay Oaks is a COMMUNITY center and these rates will turn away alot of our community… Doesn’t make any sense…

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