Town Council Votes to Increase Millage

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The millage rate for every $1,000 of assessed property value will be .99 starting October 1st. That’s over 18% higher than the roll-back rate of .83 which would have generated the same amount of revenue as the town received in the 2021-2022 fiscal year due to higher property values.

This Thursday night town council meeting was the most contentious of any previous meeting with these five members.

The reasons given for the increase were to fund the following: beach renourishment, Estero Boulevard lighting, furniture and fixtures for the new Bay Oaks building, Community Policing and “other” capital improvements.

Councilman Dan Allers took a lot of heat from Mayor Ray Murphy, Vice Mayor Rexann Hosafros and Councilman Bill Veach. Allers was poised to vote no on the millage increase. He said everything was hitting residents all at the same time, one thing after another, higher fees, increased parking rates, a short-term rental hike, inflation and now a millage increase.

What makes the budget discussion even more interesting is that the State Legislature has set up the municipality budget process in a way that if one council member votes against a millage increase it has to come down a certain percentage from the max rate on the table.  If two members vote against the max rate increase, that percentage must come down even more.

If Allers voted no, the percentage drop amounted to about $56,000. Allers wanted the council to make those cuts from the Bay Oaks fixture and furniture budget.And that led to an hour long fight over Community Policing. Here’s why…

Hosafross, Veach and Murphy told Allers they were compromising by allowing Community Policing, something Allers and Atterholt want badly. And, if Allers was going to vote against the budget, forcing the max rate down, they would pull Community Policing on him. But if that happened, councilman Jim Atterholt said he would not vote for the increase, which would have cut the vote to 3-2, therefore forcing the millage rate even lower (according to the state formula), putting other projects in jeopardy of being funded.

Murphy told Allers, “You want your cake and eat it too. You’ve gotten everything you’ve asked for and you haven’t given up anything. We’ve all bent here. We’re bending and you’re not.” Allers said he took offense when Murphy accused him of not giving up anything. “I’ve waited two years for Community Policing.” He also told the three of them he wasn’t going to be bullied.

Murphy didn’t let up. “Noone has compromised more than me. I’m the big compromiser here. I didn’t want the lighting at all. I still don’t believe that a town should light a county road. I don’t believe it. I agree with councilman Veach. I’m not convinced about community policing, not at all, but I’m willing to give it a shot since it’s for the greater good. I don’t agree with it but I’m willing to do it for the greater good so there’s your compromise. I’m directing that to you Dan.

Hosafross said, “Why should all of us have to move for you? If you stand your ground, you could lose Community Policing.”

Veach accused Allers of being disingenuous.

Murphy, Hosafross and Veach were not going to give on the Bay Oaks fixtures. Allers, worried that he was going to lose Community Policing, gave in at the end and voted for the maximum millage increase of .99.

Once the millage increase was approved, the council then voted to approve the 2022-2023 budget. The only budget put forth by town manager Roger Hernstadt was a budget based on a millage of .99. He did not provide the council with any other options. He told them if the millage was lower, they would have to make cuts. 

When the public comment period opened on the budget, Mayor Ray Murphy sarcastically blurted out “of course,” when candidate John King approached the microphone to use his 3 minutes to object to the tax increase.

 

21 COMMENTS

  1. To the best of my recollection, I have never said only property owners should serve on the Council. I’m not sure what “BOARD” is being referred to? I have told Jason that Florida law did not allow for non residents to serve on the Council and that I would be willing to be the voice for business owners and non residential property owners. I shared that with the Council at their 9/22 meeting. I have told others that per the Town Charter the qualifications for running for Town Council are a resident of the Town for at least 1 year and a registered voter. I can’t control how people misconstrue my remarks. Lee, I hope that answers your question. I hear you used to be a journalist. However, like journalism today, I’m not seeing any objectivity. Did you notice the Mayor attack you last night, without naming you, for quitting the Bay Oaks Committee because you didn’t like the decision the Town Manager made? If you want to sit down and talk objectively, I’m happy to do so. If there is one thing I can be, especially about myself, is objective.

  2. As with your previous comments, don’t but words in other people’s mouths, Lee. No one anywhere here is suggesting renters are second class citizens and shouldn’t have a vote. See ya in November.

  3. The only way we can change this is to vote out the people that continue to spend money like it is not their’s. Condominium owners are being hit with mandatory reserve funding costs ordered by the state, coupled with tax increases due to increased property valuations and now a millage increases on top of the property valuation increase. Several on the Town Council as well as our Town Manager appear to be tone deaf.

  4. I agree with all the folks that say Council members should be property owners. Since when does a person that DOES NOT own property and DOES NOT pay property taxes have the right to FORCE those of us that do pay our taxes to increase and spend OUR money on increases/projects (some) we don’t even support. THAT’S ASSINE!!!!!

    • So you would reduce renters to second class citizens on Fort Myers Beach right Carol?
      And you really think that can and should happen?
      Not in this country.

  5. The way Bill, Rexanne and Ray spoke to and about Dan Allers was rude and bullying. He was pressured into voting for something that he didn’t want to do to save other projects from being NOT voted for by those 3. Something the people and property owners have told him they didn’t want. The Manager should have provided every possible scenario of the budget based on how many votes it might get!
    I do not think you should have to be a property owner to be on the council. If you are a concerned resident and want to fight for the rights of the people you represent you have every right to be on that council!
    My husband and I are business and commercial property owners on Ft Myers Beach for 32 years, but we don’t live on the Beach – we rely on Council to have our interests considered too even though we cannot vote for them. We want the most level headed and fair minded people on that Council. Maybe the others do hear from people who want the tax increase and are representing them – but no one shamed or bullied them for doing that. I just don’t like what I saw.
    These are all good people on the Council but that wasn’t the side of them we got to see at this meeting.

  6. Spot-on correct by Seamus, Captain America and the others. This council, particularly the three of them have worn out there welcome and need to be voted out of office. It’s time for change and a fresh start, make you vote count in November.

  7. Last night’s Town Council meeting was an embarrassing display of government at work (or not at work as this meeting proved.) The Town of Fort Myers Beach is lucky to have Dan Allers as a member of this council. He stood his ground for well over a half hour, despite being constantly bullied by three members of the Council, including our esteemed Mayor himself, Ray Murphy. Rather than lead a level-headed, fair, and professional discussion regarding budget items as well as the millage rate, Murphy chose to remain silent and watch it all happen as Veach and Hosafros bullied, threatened, and harassed Dan into succumbing to an increase in the millage rate. And when he decided to finally get off his hands, Murphy felt it was appropriate to chime in with Veach and Hosafros to complain that “Dan got everything he wanted without giving anything in return.” That’s the kind of leader we want to reelect?? Thanks. I’ll pass.

    Responsible government is about working for your constituents. Doing what they elected you to do. And Dan is doing that. Forging ahead with pet projects like Veach’s workforce housing (which, if you ask the island’s workforce is NOT what they want, but rather affordable parking,) is flat-out irresponsible. Dan tried to work with them in seeing about reducing the FF&E budget for Bay Oaks, but they basically ignored him. At one point the dollar amount in question was something around $175,000 according to Roger, to which even Rexann herself seemed surprised. Just out of curiosity, what did all those double-digit percentage raises that Roger just rammed through for staff come to?

    We are lucky to have Dan Allers working for us, and if last night’s abysmal display showed us anything, it’s that 1) Murphy, Hosafros, and Veach have to go, and 2) the first thing the newly elected Council should do is hire an outside, independent firm to do a Forensic Accounting of the Town’s finances. Without a Finance Director for so long, surely something has been “missed.”

    To paraphrase Shakespeare, “Methinks something is rotten in the Town of Fort Myers Beach.” Keep up the fight, Dan. You’re doing the right thing, and this resident is grateful to you for that.

    • Affordable parking does not mean “free” parking. The 3 Stooges need to realize they will still get money for the Town if they just offer affordable parking for town employees. As many have stated, they don’t want to live on the Island, they just want to come to work and not use half of their shifts pay to cover parking for the day.

      I have long been a Dan Allers fan, but him caving last night made me think twice about my support for him going forward. He caved like a house of cards in the breeze.

      And what about Murphy not even having a back-up budget ready in case his plan didn’t pass 5-0?? Talk about arrogance…this entire group needs replaced….ASAP!

    • And only protestant property owners? And only white property owners? And only Gulffront property owners? And only Republican property owners?
      Would you suggest only straight property owners?
      How assinine.

    • Hey John King, did you say only property owners should be on the board? Tom Keith says he agrees with you on that. Did you say that?

  8. Allers caved and didn’t do his job, which is fight for the people. It’s a shame that this council is so short sighted. If he would’ve looked forward, he would’ve realized that the two new council members coming in (can the current ones see the writing on the wall?) would vote for policing, and it would eventually be approved?

    Here’s another thought….maybe a prerequisite to run for office should be that the person needs to OWN property on the island. Not rent.

    • Eric, I will have to respectfully disagree with you. I felt I fought for what I believed was a fair and reasonable solution to keep the millage rate at .95. I presented my solution to achieve that and I was in the minority.

      Unfortunately, the new state guidelines for approving a budget created a scenario where I had to make a decision. I tried to make my point for as long as I could. It was clear if I did not vote the way I did our community was in danger of losing far more than just community policing. We would have lost our opportunity to finally get street lights for Estero BlVD or beach renourishment. Those are amongst the top two items almost every constituent I speak to believes we need.

      People may look at that as caving, but I believe I made the best decision I could provided the circumstances I was presented with. Although I may not agree with how we got to the outcome, I respect the decision of my colleagues.

      Our community is now poised to get the long awaited lighting for Estero BlVD, the beach renourishment and community policing. All of which our community has told me they want. Sometimes this job forces us to make hard decisions. Decisions that I personally may not agree with. But, I believe I have and will continue to do what is in the best interest for the community.

  9. It’s a good thing that both Murphy and Hosafross will be gone after this November! What they both have seemed to have forgotten is that they are suppose to REPRESENTING THE RESIDENTS OF THIS TOWN, not their own personal interests! I have never seen two so out of touch administrative personnel in my life. OOPS, we moved from Illinois, so I miss spoke there! P.S. Mr. Allers shouldn’t be on the Council if he can’t stand his ground.

  10. Last nights meeting was totally unprofessional. Dan was treated horribly. While I was not opposed to the increase, and appreciated Dan’s perspective on the issue, the way the other Council members spoke to him was completely unacceptable. They owe him an apology!

  11. 3 people that think they can dictate what all of you citizens do. They could care less about you. They are in their sheltered little bubble of 1950 and think nothing changes and that rule by the “iron fist” is how you accomplish things. Bye bye Hossafross. No one will miss you. Hopefully your name along with the entire plaque at the park fade into history.

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