Despite losing approximately $6 million from its budget due to lowered property values from Hurricane Ian, the Fort Myers Beach Fire District Board voted to keep the 2023-2024 millage rate at $2.9851 per $1,000 of assessed property value.
The $2.9851 millage rate is the same rate as the current year. With that millage rate approval on Wednesday by the board, the rate can now only be decreased before a final budget is approved, it cannot be increased. By law, the fire district millage rate maxes out at $3.00 per $1,000 of assessed property value.
The Fire District millage rate of $2.9851 per $1,000 of assessed property valuation for fiscal year 2022-2023 generated about $15 million in revenue, which makes up 93% of the district budget. The district also generates revenue from fees and other services in addition to the ad valorem taxes (the millage rate). The district also has millions of dollars in fund balances and reserves. All in the fire district budget totaled about $29 million in 2022-2023.
According to figures from the Lee County appraiser’s office, property value’s on Fort Myers Beach have declined about 40% due to Hurricane Ian. That translates into $6 million less for the fire district. Here’s how For Chief Scott Wirth says the district is dealing with the financial fallout.
14 positions that were vacant have been frozen; 12 from the operational staff (responders), 1 Chief Administrative Officer and 1 on the administrative staff. Wirth says the district is also down one fire engine which requires 9 personnel minimum to staff across the three shifts. “At the same time our call volume is also down 60% on average. What this means is that we’re still properly staffed to manage our current call volume.”
The department lost station 31 on Estero Boulevard, a fire engine, and an ambulance in the storm.
In addition to the financial savings from the frozen positions, the district is expecting to use $4.6 million from its reserves to balance the budget. The district’s 2022-2023 reserve balance was just under $13 million.
A budget hearing for fiscal 2023-2024 is being held on September 13th at 5:15PM at DiamondHead Resort.