Taxes, water and sewer rates, police staffing and illegal aliens are the four topics of most concern to Marco Island residents, according to the results of a long-range planning survey conducted by city leaders in November.
However, there is a slight discrepancy among the level of concern and actual research findings, which were completed by city and Collier County staff members.
Attempts to reach City Manager Jim Rivere and City Planner Kris Van Lengen for comment were unsuccessful as of press time.
First on the list of concerns: taxes. According to city research, 14 percent, or a total of $14,636,057, of resident ad valorem tax bill in 2010 stayed on Marco Island, while Collier County received 27 percent, or $29,384,699; and the School District of Collier County received the remaining 59 percent of taxes, $63,610,556 in all.
In terms of changes in city millage, city workers documented the rate over a 15-year period from 1998 to 2011. In 1998, the millage rate stood at 2.112. That rate declined over the next two years, increased 13 percent in 2001, and declined again for the next seven years. In 2009, the millage rate increased 15 percent over the previous year to a rate of 1.397, more than 34 percent lower than the 1998 millage rate. Currently, the city’s 1.89 millage rate for 2011 is an increase of 13 percent over 2010, but still 10 percent lower than the millage rate 15 years ago.
Marco Island residents whose home is valued at $500,000 pay approximately $826 to the city for millage tax each year. According to research prepared by city council member Wayne Waldack that amount is much less than a host of cities between Tampa to Miami.
In Everglades City, one of the Island’s closet neighboring communities with a population of 648, residents pay approximately $978 in city millage on a $500,000 home.
In Punta Gorda, which with a population of 17,651 is closest to matching Marco Island’s 18,370 residents, residents there pay approximately $1,284 for city millage on a home valued at $500,000.
Only in Naples, with that city’s 22,556 residents, do taxpayers pay less millage — approximately $590 on a $500,000 home. In 2010, Naples had city millage rate of 1.18, compared to Marco Island’s 1.6518 in the same time period.
It is important to note that difference in city services provided were not considered in regards to millage rates in other parts of the state.
The Island’s water and sewer rates were another area of concern in the long-term planning survey. Compared to other cities and counties in South Florida, Marco Island stands in the middle of the pack when it comes to rates.
Out of 20 surrounding or neighboring cities and counties, Marco ranked 12th for its water and sewer utility rates based on 15,000 gallon usage, the typical residential usage on Marco. Residents on the Island pay $30.83 for water base; $57.75 for water usage (per 15,000 gallons); $25.14 for the sewer base and $29.82 for sewer usage. The total bill for residents equates to about $143.54, which does not include a 14 percent temporary surcharge.
The total water and sewer bill for residents in Naples is about $105.54, while people who live in North Port paid the most of the 20 cities compared, with a total bill of approximately $218.79.
In the survey, respondents had differing views on whether the city spends too much or too little on police protection. City workers selected 50 Florida cities chosen because of similar size and proximity. Marco Island has 32 officers, nearly 2 (1.9) for every 1,000 residents. Compared to the 49 jurisdictions listed, the Island uses the 4th fewest officers.
Finally, a number of survey respondents cited illegal aliens as a source of long-term concern for Southwest Florida. Since June 2007, the Collier County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) has had an agreement with the U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE). More than 30 sheriff’s employees have received extensive ICE training and given the authority to determine the immigration status of people who have been arrested. The office has also developed a Criminal Alien Task Force (CATF). According to a report completed by CCSO the sheriff’s office turned over 2,984 individuals to ICE since October 1, 2007.
When CCSO interviewed 1,046 inmates in the county jail between December, 2009 and June 10, 2010, all whom were known to be illegal, only 97 inmates or (9 percent) were arrested for major felonies (also known as Level 1 crimes) such as murder, rape, kidnapping and drug trafficking. Twenty-five percent were arrested for what is considered Level 2 crimes, such as battery, petty larceny, felony fraud and minor theft. The remainder — 66 percent of illegal inmates — were picked up on misdemeanors, such as driving without a license. A majority of these crimes were “minor and nonviolent,” according to the sheriff’s report.
While 60 percent of illegal individuals detained and removed from the U.S. by CATF were from Mexico, the task force identified and interviewed people from more than 50 countries including Bangladesh, Canada, Iran, Russia and Vietnam.
The survey results are posted on the city website, www.cityofmarcoisland.com.