MARCO ISLAND — Marco Island residents frustrated at paying surcharges to support the city’s sewer treatment reclamation program could get relief earlier than expected.
Residents of the Island (excluding Marco Shores and Goodland) currently pay two surcharges: The first, currently set at six percent, is being used for roadway re-surfacing and is part of a $3.5 million bond issuance. That fee will remain at six percent for two more years and decrease to one-point-five percent in 2014, the same year the surcharge is estimated to expire. It is projected that the surcharge will bring the city in excess of $1.3 million dollars this year, for a surplus of $2.12 million.
The second surcharge of $2,758 (equivalent to eight percent of water and sewer bills) is being used to offset the cost of improvements made to the old wastewater treatment plant. Under current financial projections, this buy down will be complete in 2018.
However, finance director Patricia Bliss told council members at their regularly scheduled meeting on Monday night that if the council paid for roadway resurfacing from the 2012-2013 Capital Improvement Budget, it could reduce the surcharge earlier, perhaps by the end of 2012 and save residents $1.3 million. All totaled, the roadway resurfacing is expected to cost the city $500,000 in 2012 and $800,000 the following year.
According to Bliss, if council members decide to fund the roadway project from the Capital Improvement Budget, ad valoreum taxes may need to be increased or council will have to make other budget cuts in 2012 and 2013.
“You’re still going to have the expenditure,” Bliss explained, adding that the question remains, “where do you want to spend it?”
Councilman Wayne Waldack expressed concern that people who own vacant lots of the island will be exempt from paying the surcharges. He said the city has no recourse for owners who wait out the surcharge timetable.
“They’re not paying for anything,” Waldack said. “They’re going to be able to take advantage of it while everyone else is paying.”
This complicated process of deciding which fund to use for payment did not sit well with resident Ken Honecker, who serves as chairman of the Utility Advisory board.
“This is a convoluted process that should have been discussed years ago,” he told council members.
The issue will be discussed again at an upcoming meeting, after finance department workers investigate whether a special assessment for land owners who have yet to build is desirable.