Marco Island looks to increase taxes by 20 percent, beef up reserves

Marco Island Finance Director Patricia Bliss keeps a tally of items City Council members wish to add to the 2011 budget during a six-hour special-called meeting with department directors on Monday.

Photo by KELLY FARRELL, Staff

Marco Island Finance Director Patricia Bliss keeps a tally of items City Council members wish to add to the 2011 budget during a six-hour special-called meeting with department directors on Monday.

— Marco Island City Council gave a second nod of approval for an approximate 20 percent tax rate increase on Monday. They may still vote to lower that during September meetings, however.

The maximum tax rate of $1.98 per $1,000 of taxable property value was set by council in a 4-2 vote in late June when City Councilman Joe Batte was absent. Batte became the swing vote on Monday when council took a poll of members to see if they have the five votes necessary.

Batte was reluctant because the proposed 2011 budget includes nearly $3 million for reserves.

“I get a little bit nervous when we put a lot of money in reserves that government can use for anything it wants,” Batte said.

Councilman Jerry Gibson said Batte would be there to vote on how to spend the money, and with that, garnered Batte’s approval.

Councilmen Bill Trotter and Larry Magel vied for the lower roll back rate, which is $1.86 per $1,000 of taxable property value and would have the average taxpayer paying the same this year as last year.

Last year’s tax rate was $1.65 per $1,000 of taxable property value. The Collier County Property Appraiser’s office estimated an approximate 11 percent decrease in the average Marco Island property value. Specific values are now available on the Collier Appraiser’s website.

Marco Island Taxpayers’ Association board members made up the majority of the audience.

“I’m upset because whenever I heard anything from anyone, the budget was going to be geared toward a lower rate,” said MITA President Fay Biles.

“This is the wrong way to go for our people,” she said.

Recent cuts in top city positions, including the community development director, public information coordinator, chief of code compliance and two police lieutenants aren’t leading to tax savings.

Another cut announced on Monday won’t lead to a savings either. The manager of the city Racquet Center, Bill Van Glabek, is being eliminated, saving the city about $58,000 annually, said Parks and Recreation Director Bryan Milk. The center, which always ran in the red losing about $70,000 annually, Milk said, will now be managed by existing part-time employees earning about $10 per hour without benefits.

Operating hours will be cut and the approximate 200 members will pay $350 annually instead of $300, Milk said.

Other city fees to increase during review sessions this September include building permits, impact fees and fire prevention fees, officials said.

After reviewing the approximate $21 million general fund budget, which is about $40,000 higher than last year’s budget, as proposed by interim- City Manager Jim Riviere, council increased the budget by another $200,000. The increase includes replacement of two police cars for $75,000, maintaining marine patrol and a $100,000 grant application for bike paths.

The utility and capital projects will be reviewed beginning 1 p.m., Aug. 16 .

Despite the city currently having more than $5 million in reserves with another $3 million being budgeted in 2011, the city likely won’t be able to bail out its ailing utility, said Finance Director Patricia Bliss.

A miscalculation of how many residents would delay paying their septic tank replacement program assessments is of great concern, auditors have said. Many more utility customers are delaying their payment than officials had estimated.

General fund reserves cannot be used for the utility’s STRP-related debt problems, Bliss said.

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Comments » 34

blogsmog writes:

waldack, gibson,trotter, aceri & popoff are the last of the Marco syndicate, you bums are on the way out. Grab Issler, the Chamber and the handful of cronies you have left an get the hell off the island! Marco isn't your little profit center anymore...people are sick of you and your ilk.
GET LOST!

marcofriend writes:

"A miscalculation of how many residents would delay paying their septic tank replacement program assessments is of great concern, auditors have said. Many more utility customers are delaying their payment than officials had estimated."
This is not a true statement. How many times was this explained to council back when they were voting for the STRP. This exact scenario was told to council over and over again. Now the residents get shafted for the second time because of the STRP. I hope the Condo people who were convinced by their lobby to vote for the candidates who were pro-STRP or they would be paying higher taxes and rates are finally paying attention. Everyone is getting shafted! Single family homes and Condo owners alike.

marcoredeagle writes:

I thought we would see an improvement in the new council but no. I'm disappointed. Something must be done we can't continue spending.

Borrow and spend ... Borrow and spend. Please Please people pay attention to who is for this.

jwputnam writes:

I have heard that the council approved a ONE MILLION DOLLAR architectural fee for the new Smokehouse Bridge on top of the original $100,000 design contest. In addition, the construction contract has been approved at $12,000,000, two million more than the original outrageous figure.

I don't think that I need to make any personal comments in regard to this. Mull it over in your head for a few milliseconds. The architect must use dilithium crystals to power his protractor.

You are being taken to the cleaners people. The accountants warn of bankruptcy, but our boys just raise the ante. Where is the protest?

deltarome writes:

I can't believe that council and city hall feel that they can just keep raising taxes on property that is going down in value with no end in sight.
I realize that somethings do keep increasing in cost but do we really need to just take token cost reductions?
We need to see millions, not tens of thousands being cut from city budget. Somehow, Naples, Collier county and the state are able to do it.
Then raise fees on top of it is just overkill on sticking it to those living on fixed or reduced income.
Who is going to be able to live here in next year or 10 years from now???
If half the population could get back what they paid for their property, I think they would sell and move off the island.

sailingalong writes:

Spend, spend, spend. When will they wake up? This council is no better than the last bunch of drunken sailors. All of the surrounding communities are cutting back. Marco Island just keeps spending and sticking it to the citizens. We can't afford it!!!!

lauralbi1 writes:

I for one of many are happy to see that Council is representing those that elected them and are conducting themselves accordingly. If not for the vote of Rob Popoff last year, the reserves would have been much higher and the increase would nopt have been that high this year.
Ed Issler

MrBreeze writes:

This is all in the big plan to get the little guy off the island and make way for the future "fat cats" to come in.

Remember not long ago how high the realestate went. People were buying homes and teardown was on the same day. This is just another way to make room for those who just cannot "afford" the island. Once the big bridge is done and the "toll booths" installed, yes I said "toll booths" remember that I said it first here. Then the build boom will start again only this time seller's will be distressed and selling at the price to bail out or taking a loss.

Then in the city's view they have fresh construction, new permit and impact fees. Higher taxes on new homes will lead to the squeeze out of the little guy in his Deltona home. Get ready it's coming.

This is all part of the big plan. Also, I forgot your current home site comes with new sewer paid for by the former owner (you) by STRP and you will not recover those costs in the distressed sale.

Unless you are of well means your day's on the island are numbered. It may take some time but that is the plan.

ajm3s writes:

When I listened to the discussion and vote, I can only quote Charlie Brown: "Ahhhhhhh!"

GFonda writes:

What seems to be happening in the Marco Island Operating Budget development process is preservation of a spending cap amount. This seems backwards to me. Good efforts were made by the Budget committee and City staff to build a lean budget reflecting today's economic environment as well as funds needed to effectively operate the City with no degradation in services. Then some "Plug" amounts were added totalling in excess of $2 million in the form of Oil Spill contingency and Reserves build up, so as to preserve a spending cap, that in my opinion far exceeds our future requirements.

kazbah writes:

YOU JUST DONT GET IT DO YOU,WE CANT PAY THE OLD RATE SO HOW ARE WE GOING TO PAY MORE, s----- IDIOTS!

JohninMarco writes:

I watch as the STRP continues down the street lined with foreclosed homes and lots and wonder where the money to pay for this project comes from. Maybe the city should figure that this project is just killing us financially and smell the coffeee to at least get their financial house in order.

blogsmog writes:

a few years ago CARES garnered enough signatures to have a recall referendum put on the ballot to recall Minozzi, Tucker & Trotter. Instead of these elected officials letting it go to vote, they ran to their buddies in the court system to have it thrown out...We haven't even BEGUN to feel the reprocussions of that travisty.
...how the hell are we paying for this STRP project with so many foreclosed homes on the isle?

RayPray writes:

Once we $$$ fund the Jaxson-Fiala Lab, all these problems can be forgotten!!

captnjimbo writes:

Did not the article say the rates are going up because the values have dropped and the new rate generates about the same revenue. Have they not trimmed expenses. As residents we would better serve the community by looking for and reporting wasted resources than beating up on the people we elected for doing their job.

deltarome writes:

facts are that those on council that voted for this are either protected by SOH so their valuations are low or they are renting/foreclosure so are not paying anyways.
It is easy to vote for raising taxes on someone who doesn't live here and is not protected by SOH. New buyers and recent buyers are paying most of the taxes on homes and condos.

RayPray writes:

save our homes, a great Florida innovation

RayPray writes:

Once we turn over half the wealth in Collier County to Jaxson Labs, it will be able to complete research on its revolutionary IQ boosting DNA serum.

We can then give one -- or as many injections as required -- of this cerebral elixir in order to elevate the IQs of our local selfless public $ervant$ way into the 90+ range.

The rest of our wealth we can turn over to the CUBS to keep them happy during spring training.

RayPray writes:

The residents of Rheinbeck were not happy having to pay the police for security for Princess Chelsea nuptials.

This is a very small town in NY.

EdFoster writes:

Blogsmog:

For the record, CARES did not initiate the recall petition. Roger Hall initiated it and backed it with his own money. He deserves the credit, not me, although Diane and I signed his petition as private citizens.

You are correct that "Instead of these elected officials (Minozzi, Tucker and Trotter) letting it go to vote, they ran to their buddies in the court system to have it thrown out."

You also are correct that the people of Marco "haven't even BEGUN to feel the reprocussions of that travisty. ...how the hell are we paying for this STRP project with so many foreclosed homes on the isle?"

To that I'll add: How will the people of Marco feel when their beaches are closed and visitors flee from pollution caused by overflowing lift stations and sewage plant failures? The STRP is a double disaster: not only a financial disaster but an environmental disaster waiting to happen. Central sewerage has no place on a flat low-lying barrier island in a hurricane zone ... especially when the sewer plant is situated directly on a canal leading to the Gulf and at a whopping 11 foot elevation!

As I said in responding to a previous article, the discount provided for paying the STRP "up front" in no way compensates for the "opportunity cost" of the money so fronted. When the council "got creative" in producing financing options like postponing payment entirely for 20 years, the die was cast. One of the sitting council members at the time was an accountant but she didn't forsee the implications of that stupidity and those who should have known better (Moss/Harrison/Arceri et. al.) never warned the people of the probable outcome. With most of the construction costs having to be "bonded" and the bond interest and repayment schedule having to be covered by the rate structure, utility rates were destined to rise inexorably. And they have! Everyone is now paying to fund the construction costs for those who wisely chose to postpone paying for 20 years. The city can only hope that those people will move or die soon so that their delayed payment is triggered. Delightful, isn't it! Even then, it's not clear that the city will get its money because there may be back taxes due and mortgage liens on the property. Banks who have foreclosed on a property and are taking a bath themselves may not be too anxious to pay an existing STRP lien. Arguably the city's claim may have priority over a mortgage but the city may have to go to court to establish that pre-eminence and I wouldn't count on Florida courts to decide anything equitably.

Ed Foster
Former Marco Resident & Chairman of CARES at the time.

kazbahone writes:

in response to marcoredeagle:

I thought we would see an improvement in the new council but no. I'm disappointed. Something must be done we can't continue spending.

Borrow and spend ... Borrow and spend. Please Please people pay attention to who is for this.

I agree my vote in the last election has not changed anything. I researched for months to be sure I would not be electing more officials
to continue the borrow and spend mentality.
This can NOT continue!

gk123 writes:

I'm a new homeowner to Marco Island, as my wife and I purchased a property as a second home. it's quite sad to see that the local government is blind to the world around us and continues to spend as if times are good.
What ever happened to the concept of spending within your means. I guess i'll fell right at home here, as my full time residence is in chicago and this feels like more of the same.

deltarome writes:

City of Marco has brought the "Tax and Spend" mantra to a new level-"Tax Others and Let Me Spend It"

marcoislandres writes:

Keep spending. Can someone tell me why we installed lights all around the walkway at Mackle Park? no one is walking around the lake at night, the park is closed dusk to dawn but that's when the lights are on. Do we really need to be paying for the lights to be on when the park is closed. How much did we pay for the lights and installation? Seems like a wast of money to me.

mymommd writes:

Marco is a beautiful place to live however, we pay dearly for it. Something has to give. No more taxes.

deltarome writes:

What ever happened to Council's limit to increase spending by the Cost Of Living (now 1% or less) plus 3%??
This REAL increase of approx 10% is just rubbing like rubbing the noses of the taxpayer in it........

marcoredeagle writes:

Success ... we should applaud the council ... iguana abatement went down to 3K from 12K last year.

Are they dragon slayers when they want to be? Obviously yes. Ok only on one item in the budget. But lets be happy for all those little things they do for us .... NOT.

loscabos writes:

It still burns me that we are regarded as "a Donor Island" It would be nice to see courage by our elected to STOP sending our tax dollars to fund the county sheriff, courts, jails, etc.; when we could do all that right here on Marco. A pay as you go policy with the county should be set up and keep the millions on this side of the bridge. What's the worse that can happen? And we can't overcome it?

ajm3s writes:

in response to gk123:

I'm a new homeowner to Marco Island, as my wife and I purchased a property as a second home. it's quite sad to see that the local government is blind to the world around us and continues to spend as if times are good.
What ever happened to the concept of spending within your means. I guess i'll fell right at home here, as my full time residence is in chicago and this feels like more of the same.

***********WELCOME*********************

I visited Marco Island yearly since 1995 and purchased home in 2000. Because I tend to be more comfortable with numbers let me simply provide real estate tax cost of a 1968 Deltona built home in which I did not make any improvements until I had it demo'd in 2007:

2000-$2478.50
2001-$3559.05
2002-$4082.68
2003-$4489.00
2004-$4856.79
2005-$7407.05
2006-$10041.71
2007-$5798.44

Collier County and Marco Island have by default decided to ride the housing bubble valuations along with taxation on market value without much change to millage rate. Now that valuations are falling, millage rates are rising to maintain revenue but what they fail to recognize is taxes are paid with real dollars.

The City of Marco Island is stuffing reserve funds to so as to increase actual spending so as to not be limiting by spending cap in years going forward.

Recommendation: Visit your elected officials in their execution of their duties and let them know your concern. If they are deaf, let them know in public print so they can read.

shore1709 writes:

I bought property in Marco on 1994...cheap. Sold it in 2008... why??? The taxes started @ $350.00 yr, and 1 yr befor I sold it they were
$4200.00 yr! Planned on retireing down there and build a house... no way, it wasnt happening! Took the cash, boughta home in Estero,(live in NJ right now)best thing I ever did!! I so love Marc, but who can afford it!!!!!!

marco97 writes:

Shore1790, the answer to your question "who can afford it" is not as many as the city would like and unfortunately the ones who can no longer afford the high taxes and strp and water and sewer rates can not sell their homes unless they have bought them before 2000.
I know more them one family who can no longer afford to live here because of taxes and assessments and are unable to sell thier house so foreclosure it is. Foreclosed properties don't use any water and the City is counting on people using lots of water. Wake up city hall.

ed34145 writes:

Nice to see someone finally caught on to the empire built by Dana Souza. They never needed a $58,000 manager at the racquet center, but the empire builder needed his empire.

ajm3s writes:

in response to marco97:

Shore1790, the answer to your question "who can afford it" is not as many as the city would like and unfortunately the ones who can no longer afford the high taxes and strp and water and sewer rates can not sell their homes unless they have bought them before 2000.
I know more them one family who can no longer afford to live here because of taxes and assessments and are unable to sell thier house so foreclosure it is. Foreclosed properties don't use any water and the City is counting on people using lots of water. Wake up city hall.

But we now have a new city position to handle the foreclosures, to cut the "red tape".

Unbelievable.

I will repeat your call: WAKE UP CITY HALL

jwputnam writes:

From a recent email received in response to a question regarding the cost of the Smokehouse Bay Bridge:

"Our $8 million bridge wouldn't qualify (for a federal grant) as is so they decided to add back in the Bay Walk so it was over $10 million."

My considered response:
MORONS!!!!!!! s----- MORONS!!!! It insults my intelligence to even read this stuff!!!!! I am APPALLED!!!!! I cannot get off of this Island soon enough! I cannot believe that I share space on this Earth with such s----- people. It doesn’t matter!!!! SOMEBODY pays for it! Have we all lost our sanity? I am TOTALLY disillusioned with the “new” American citizen. How the hell do you think Thomas Jefferson would have responded to this question????? WE HAVE LOST OUR WAY PEOPLE!!!!"

Sorry to be so angry. This was actually a private email, but I just couldn't help sharing it. I am TRULY angry with the GROSS incompetency of government on Marco, let alone our Fed. Why do we continue to tolerate this? Why?

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