The Beach’s Booming Recovery Continues

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The sound of saws and hammers on every street. Parades, fireworks, The Shrimp Festival and the return of other major events. Big developer proposals. And, property values bouncing back at an astounding pace. All signs that Fort Myers Beach is making incredible strides recovering from a catastrophic storm only 2 years ago.

In early June, Lee County Property Appraiser Matt Caldwell reported that property values on Fort Myers Beach were on pace to bounce back by 45% compared to 2023. Turns out his office undershot that number by 9%. The June report was preliminary. This week the numbers were final and Fort Myers Beach property values are going into the next year up 54% over last year.

In an e-mail to Beach Talk Radio answering the question about the 9% change, Caldwell said, “More and more properties coming back on the roll. The recovery has been substantial.” And he expects that recovery to continue next year, where Fort Myers Beach property values may be back to where they were before the storm.

Here’s how Caldwell’s property value increases, in other municipalities, compare to the 54% Fort Myers Beach increase. Lee County increased 12.8%, the City of Fort Myers increased 8.7%, Cape Coral went up 12.6%, Bonita Springs jumped 12.6%, Estero rose 9% and Sanibel went up only 1%.

In 2022 (before Ian hit) the taxable value of all property on Fort Myers Beach was $4.44 Billion. In 2023 (less than one year after Ian) that number dropped to $2.6 Billion. Caldwell’s office now says that number is back up to $3.98 Billion, just about $500 million off from the value of all the beach property before the storm.

The higher number also means more revenue for the Town of Fort Myers Beach. The town was anticipating an additional $1 million from the 45% increase. That revenue number will now be $1.25 million now that the increase is 54%. The Fort Myers Beach Town Council will hold budget meetings September 9th and September 23rd.

The Fort Myers Beach millage rate is currently .99 for every $1,000 of assessed property value. Last month the Town Council voted for a tentative millage rate of $1.03. A tentative millage rate must be approved by August 4th (the new fiscal year begins October 1st). It was not the final millage rate vote. As they go through the budget process, the Town Council can still vote to come down to .99 or even lower. What they cannot do is vote to go higher than the $1.03. Vice Mayor Jim Atterholt and Councilman John King voted against the tentative higher rate. Last Sunday on Beach Talk Radio, Fort Myers Beach Mayor Dan Allers said he believes town staff has found a way to keep the millage rate at .99.

Last month Town Finance Director Joe Onzick told the Town Council that the town’s emergency funds are depleted and they should consider raising the millage rate to start to replenish that fund. In the first two months after Hurricane Ian, before insurance money and FEMA funds arrived to help operate the town, $3.5 million from emergency funds was spent.

Onzick recommended the town raise the millage rate to $1.03 for every $1,000 of assessed property value which would net the emergency fund $434,172 in the next fiscal year if the property values increased by 46%. Based on Caldwell’s June number of 45%, if the town tax rate stayed at .99, $290,000 would have been deposited back into the town’s emergency funds. With the added 9% to the property values the town can now add a total of $502,685 to the reserve funds and keep the millage rate at .99.

The town has 3 emergency funds in the budget: Emergency Fund Reserves, General Fund Emergency Reserves and General Fund Operating Reserves. In those 3 reserve funds as of today there is $1.88 million. Based on the history of dealing with Hurricane Ian, Onzick wants that number back up to $3.5 million as quickly as possible.

 

 

8 COMMENTS

  1. And yet they want to spend almost $8 million for a building that was worth around $3.5 million just a few years back, only to start renovations costing in the millions. Worse than drunken sailors. To all the council members and the mayor… sell the land the taxpayers paid for to replenish the emergency fund. Stop paying stupid rents on the trailers you are in and purchase some economically feasible and stay in them. Tighten your spending belts and make wiser decisions. Your existence as elected servants of the town depends entirely on the residents.

    • The $8 million to purchase the new town hall building is not coming from the general fund. It is coming from a state appropriation. Of that funding $7 million will be for the purchase and $1 million for the remaining build out from the storm. Although the price for the building was significantly lower pre storm, the town is required by law to get 2 appraisals before it can submit a bid. Both of those appraisals support the purchase price of the building.

      The town owns 2 parcels of land near where the old town hall use to sit. I support selling the smaller property to replenish the emergency fund, but not the larger parcel for several reasons. The current town hall trailers are being paid for by the town, but that funding is being reimbursed by FEMA funding.

      We have been working with a deficit of $2.5 million in revenue over the last year (and more the previous year) all while improving resident satisfaction. I would say this council and staff have done an excellent job of being fiscally responsible to ensure a promising future.

      • Thank you Dan, for correcting. I don’t know how you exhibit such an outward calm all the time! I am super impressed by the exemplary job this council is doing. FMB’s future is bright! Great leadership.

        • With no response, it makes me believe you are keeping secrets.

          Florida’s Government in the Sunshine Law, commonly called the Sunshine Law, passed in 1967. It requires that all meetings of any state, county, or municipal board or commission in Florida be open to the public, and declares that actions taken at closed meetings are not binding.

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