When the Fort Myers Beach town staff begins its budget process it will do so with the possibility the millage rate could be increased from .95 per $1,000 of assessed property value to .99. The final number could come down, but it cannot go higher than the .99.
State law requires municipalities to set a millage rate ceiling when they start their budget process so taxpayers know from the start of the process how high their taxes might go. It gives taxpayers the opportunity to provide feedback to their elected officials about how they plan to spend their tax dollars. The proposed millage rate must be submitted to the Lee County Property Appraiser before August 4th. The town council does not meet again until August.
There’s no doubt more revenue from the millage rate, even at .95 will be higher. Property values have skyrocketed in the last 12 months. Lee County will release its final property values for the 2022 fiscal year on or before July 1st.
The millage rate increase was suggested by Vice Mayor Rexann Hosafros and her motion was seconded by Mayor Ray Murphy. If the council votes in the millage rate increase it will bring in an additional $660,000.
Councilman Jim Atterholt jumped in to say raising taxes on the people now, without a plan on how that money would be spent is backwards. “I’m always troubled by this concept of asking for more even though we haven’t formally discussed what we’re going to use it for.”
Atterholt called the process convoluted and bizarre, “particularly when we can’t have a discussion about.” Atterholt was referring to Mayor Murphy closing down a conversation about the cost of the Estero Boulevard lights brought forward by councilman Dan Allers.
Atterholt went on to say that if the town needs revenue he’s happy to support it, “If we’re able to show that need before we propose it.”
Town Manager Roger Hernstadt has identified $2 million in one-time and recurring revenue that can be used for a list of projects the town council wants to tackle. Even with a higher millage rate, and the $2 million, Hernstadt says not all the projects on the list could be completed. So what’s on that list? Hernstadt detailed some of the projects the council has been discussing: They include:
– Electric charging stations ($115,000)
– Beach renourishment ($3.5 million)
– Ester Boulevard street lights (cost unknown)
– Workforce Housing (between $0 and $6 million according to Hernstadt)
– Bay Oaks furniture, fixtures and equipment (cost not given)
– A new parking app ($125,000 plus $15,000 per year)
– Community Policing and special detail policing (cost not given)
– What to do with the property the town purchased for $1 million behind town hall. Turning into a parking lot is now being discussed, after the mooring field upland facility was shot down following an outcry from the neighborhood.
In the end, all 5 members voted to start the budget discussions at the higher millage rate. Atterholt explained his yes vote. He said he wanted there to be a process where there could be a public discussion, earlier on, about the projects Hernstadt laid out.
There will be several public hearings held before the final budget is adopted. You can also e-mail your elected representatives at any time to discuss your taxes at