MARCO ISLAND — Two opposing sides have been sounding off on the issue of whether to continue allowing special events with amplified music at the Esplanade. Tuesday, it will be up to City Council.
Over the course of the last year, since Marco first permitted an increase of the usual 28 maximum events to 56 special events at the Esplanade in August 2008, there have been people pulling to keep the extra nightlife going and other residents, most of whom live near the Esplanade, say it’s too loud.
“We continue hearing from both sides,” City Manager Steve Thompson said Thursday evening.
Also to be discussed:
City’s property tax rate
Earlier this summer, the city set the maximum millage rate at 1.85 mils, or $1.85 per $1,000 of taxable property value, as reflected on estimated property tax bills sent in August. However, City Council is looking at a budget built around a 1.75 millage rate, or $1.75 per $1,000 of taxable property value. Some are outraged by this approximate 26 percent increase from last year’s rate.
“I hate to guess what City Council will do, but my guess is they’ll start at 1.75 mils and go down from there,” Thomspon said.
Tied closely to the millage rate, council will also hold the first of two public readings of the 2010 city budget.
Council cut about $2.5 million from the initial budget, with about $400,000 of that in general fund items, the millage rate could decrease.
Councilmen Bill Trotter and Frank Recker have said they preferred putting the savings into reserves rather than decreasing taxes. Partially because they said they feared spending far less than the city’s spending cap allows.
The spending cap limits spending increases to no more than 3 percent plus COLA above the year before. Each year the city spends less than the cap, the more future budgets are limited.
The city spent about $500,000 less than the spending cap for the first time last year. At a rate of 1.75 mils, the city would be planning to spend about $500,000 less than the cap again.
If the $400,000 in recent cuts went to a tax savings, it would lower the tax rate to about $1.70 per $1,000 of taxable property value.
Charter review committee member Larry Magel, rumored to be a council candidate, said he doesn’t think council should make decisions based on the cap.
A current draft of the charter under review by the committee may allow the city to make up for money lost during the economic emergency. The charter committee meets 1 p.m. Tuesday at the City Hall conference room, 50 Bald Eagle Drive.
Electric fee refund
Once again council will discuss $1.1 million in surplus electric franchise fees. Electric customers wanted a refund of city fees on their electric bills after council canceled the project to put electrical lines underground.
The surplus was generated when then-Finance Director Bill Harrison informed City Council in fall 2008 that at least a 3.6 percent electric franchise fee was needed to pay off about $1 million in debt.
However, current Finance Director Patricia Bliss and Marco Island Taxpayer Association board member Amadeo Petricca noticed earlier this summer that there was actually a surplus.
Council has considered giving a partial refund, using the rest of the money for burying electric lines at the new Veterans’ Community Park.
When council discussed this idea in August, the estimate for the park’s electric project was $400,000.
Now, a report released by Public Works Director Rony Joel states that project will cost $700,000 and includes a new nearby alley to the plan.
If council approves this option, a customer with an approximate $100 electric bill would get less than $20 refunded.
If council refunds all the money, the same customer would get about $43, per Joel’s calculations.
State water classifications and quality
Officials don’t agree on whether a recommendation by the Florida League of Cities to create new Florida water classifications would lower water standards around Marco Island and throughout the state.
Joel said supporting additional water body classifications might save the city money.
Jennifer Hecker, Natural Resource Policy Manager with the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, said it would allow for decreased water quality and urged council not support the resolution to add more water classifications.
City Environmental Specialist Nancy Richie has since reported that reclassification would not lower the standards of water bodies that are generally for human use, nor of those usually used by non-humans, including canals and the Rookery Bay area waters.
See related links for the full agenda of the meeting scheduled 5:30 p.m. Tuesday in the Community Room, 51 Bald Eagle Drive.