EAGLE i: Trotter talks taxes, participation in city finances

Councilman leads effort to increase participation in city budget during Marco’s high season

About 14 visitors attended the city's financial planning open house in the Community Room, Monday evening.

Lisa Douglass / Eagle i

About 14 visitors attended the city's financial planning open house in the Community Room, Monday evening.

About 14 visitors attended the city's financial planning open house in the Community Room, Monday evening.

Lisa Douglass / Eagle i

About 14 visitors attended the city's financial planning open house in the Community Room, Monday evening.

As part of a program to expand public involvement in the financial planning and budgeting process, the City Council formed the Ad Hoc Financial Planning Committee (FPC) at the beginning of this year — appointing me as chairman. This was part of an effort to start the process earlier and obtain public input during the high season.

This more rigorous process is also timely due to the difficult economic environment which we are now facing. The committee’s planning scenario for the next fiscal year is that there will be a 10 percent reduction in property values, resulting in a similar reduction in revenues if millage rates remain the same. Our assumption may be somewhat optimistic given that Collier County recently estimated a 24 percent reduction countywide. However, we will not know anything officially until June 1.

Because of this, it is important for us to examine every area of city expenditures to determine if there are any opportunities to cut costs and to provide services more efficiently, and in innovative ways. The FPC is also working on linking costs to city services to help facilitate a constructive decision-making process aligned with key priorities.

To date, FPC committee members, which include Jim Riviere, Larry Magel, Tom Kirstein, Steve Stefanides, Irv Pavlow and Pat Neale, have been working with city staff to gather information for their recommendations. The current focus of the FPC is on the general fund, which does not include utilities.

The latest step in this process was Monday’s financial planning open house and workshop. The purpose of the event was:

First, to promote a greater understanding of the many services provided by the city for their portion of your tax dollars (which is only about 10 percent of the property tax bill.)

Second, to obtain participant views regarding the value of these services and the opportunities for improvement.

The session began with a brief overview of the activities of the committee, and was followed by a tour of the displays by each department depicting the services provided by the city. Then, attendees reconvened in breakout groups to provide their input on the value of city services and opportunities for improvement. This discussion was shaped by the “top 10 services lists” of the community development, fire rescue, parks and recreation, police and public works departments.

I want to express my appreciation for all who participated in Monday’s workshop and for the efforts of the city staff in preparing for it. Even though attendance was less than anticipated, there was great interaction and a lot of valuable input generated. Hopefully, this will provide a prototype for subsequent events of this type in the future.

The output from the public workshop will provide useful insights for committee members to consider in making their recommendations to City Council at our April 20 Council workshop.

The proceedings from Monday’s session are currently being summarized for review with the FPC at our next meeting March 30.

For those who could not attend the session, visit the city’s Web site at cityofmarcoisland.com. Under the Hot Topic section, residents can look at the Top 10 services list for each department and provide comments.

Check link to city Web site to comment on top 10 city services.

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