Marco council votes to decrease utility surcharge

Marco Island City Council voted Monday night to decrease a utility surcharge that continues to accrue millions of dollars in surplus annually.

The utility surcharge placed on water and sewer bills was decreased from 6 percent to 4 percent in a unanimous, 5-0 vote.

However, City Councilmen Joe Batte and Bill Trotter said that with an excess $5 million collected from the surcharge through the end of Fiscal 2010, the surcharge could be even lower.

"My whole contention is this shouldn't be used to pay for other things," Trotter said.

The 6 percent surcharge was put on water and sewer bills years ago when the city took on the Septic Tank Replacement Program (STRP) to convert septic tanks to an island-wide sewer system. The 6 percent surcharge was to pay for road resurfacing while another 8 percent surcharge was also placed on bills to pay for increased infrastructure related to the STRP, Trotter said.

However, money has been spent on other things and a surplus continues to accumulate from the surcharges, he said.

Trotter made a motion to decrease both utility surcharges from a current total of 14 percent to 5 percent. Batte agreed. However, the motion failed 3-2. Councilmen Chuck Kiester and Frank Recker were absent.

Vice Chairman Larry Magel said he didn't support going any lower because the utility was suffering financial shortages.

Those challenges are due to water and sewer rates needing to be adjusted, which the city plans to do in 2012, Trotter said.

Marco Island resident Ken Honecker supported the 2 percent savings, but had other questions.

"The bigger issue is, where is this excess money going?" Honecker asked.

The excess money, Trotter said, is accumulating in surplus accounts and being spent on utility operations that should be paid from water and sewer rates, not from surcharges.

The decrease in surcharges comes after council agreed to move at least some of the road resurfacing costs to the city's general fund, or main operating account, and out of the utility fund. To do that, council increased the tax rate from $1.89 per $1,000 of taxable property value to about $1.96 per $1,000 of taxable property value for Fiscal 2012.

The change has a second benefit, Honecker noted. The city has a spending cap on the general fund that limits an increase of spending from one year to the next to no more than 3 percent plus a cost of living adjustment.

Council's decision to decrease the utility surcharge from 6 percent to 4 percent will require a final vote Nov. 1.

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Comments » 3

ajm3s writes:

Trotter 1, Magel 0

Why? When you establish an account for a specific purpose, it is to be used for that purpose. If not, return to the taxpayer by lowering ........

I suspect, honesty in funding is lacking by those that pretend to represent us and manage this city. Let us consider another reserve: the OIL SPILL RESERVE, how is that to be spent? A new pet project? To justify an expansion of the Community Center by 8X?

Have we not learned from prior practices by the City and Council that a reserve dollar is always transferred!

Or is the new justification of increasing reserve funds, to show underwriters of bonds that we can borrow more to feed the expansionary goals of the city to increase density and secure more monies through taxation and services.

Was the overcapacity of the water/waste treatment facility just a primer to the justification to support increasing density? I could never understand how one could design a waste treatment facility design capacity that is beyond actual capacity of a full build out which is never achieved. Unless, it was, in fact, part of the PLAN - again, to justify expansion and increase density.

To that I say, the Planning Board is not adhering to its mission statement, which clearly states "managing growth and development and protecting the island’s tropical small town character." And the Council is not acting as a fair steward.

Does a hotel in town center meet the definition of tropical small town character? Is shifting density credits a precursor to tapping unused credit in existing development to other parts of the city?

Wake UP folks, shifting of density credits, shifting of reserve dollars, shifting of accounts set aside for specific uses are NOT practices associated with good stewardship. Actually it is bad practice. For example, would you shift your monies set aside for a retirement plan to make up for a lack of income to meet house expenses or to add a room for an expansion of your home?

Planning matters! So quit transferring funds to make up for poor planning!

My vision, quality not quantity!!!!!!!

Aviaconsul writes:

Robbing Peter to feed Paul never pays in the long run! "Learn to live within your means unless you want to move to Greece"

ajm3s writes:

I believe this blog is so revealing:

http://marcoislandblog.blogspot.com/

Especially this:

"And like the Occupy Wall Street mob, the Occupy Marco Island City Hall kakistocracy wants their pet projects for nothing – such as the STRP, South Collier, the "arts", tennis courts, more this and more that – all by taxing"

And I will add by creating special reserve funds for uses beyond intent and/or "reduced" funding to maintain the spending outside of its intent.

Are reserve funds the new pathway to justify spending for new pet projects?

This article clearly shows how difficult it is to eliminate them? Just look at the vote, which I would have thought would be unanimous, to stop collections under false pretenses.

God help us all!

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