Starting Point – Higher Taxes

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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

2 COMMENTS

  1. It seems this board in general, with some exceptions, has to many ideas on how to spend money they don’t have and they waste time trying to implement it.
    They spend a million dollars(of tax money) on a piece of property to add facilities for the sailboaters and then ask the tax payers about the idea and get shot down – now we have a million dollar parking lot.
    They spend time writing a new ordinance for 15% window tint, pass it and then ask the resident about the idea and get shot down – they vacillate 15% or 45% and seem to have settled on going back to the 45% – more wasted time
    They are still wasting time(7 years) and money talking about street lights when the county has always been clear. You have a mayor that thinks he can walk into a county meeting with his hand out and walk out with his pockets full.
    There are several board approved projects that have no real funding source, except to raise taxes.
    You have mayor that says “I want to own Estero Blvd”. Can you imagine. The north end is already 7 years old and showing signs of sinking around manholes. Can you imagine the cost to maintain this road. Will they send out their little fleet of 4 wheelers to do the work.
    The mayor has led the fight with the 2 residents over the beach walkover that is costing the taxpayers thousands of $$$ because the my way or the highway mayor can’t seem to understand and/or find a solution.
    This board needs a reset.

  2. Look back some of my past posts from over a year ago warning the residents the tax hike was coming. You can’t keep spending money you don’t have. Borrowing at every corner and expect not to have a tax increase. Wake up residents, the town is going to send some of you on your way. As you are on a fixed income from retirement and can’t afford to live here anymore because of the frivolous spending of the town. You will no longer live in the home you have been in for thirty years. It will continue until you all step up and say enough is enough. Voting out those who don’t listen. This is your power of reason. Vote in those who will have an open ear. This disregard for common sense budgeting is not conducive to a thriving and happy town.

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