The Marco Island City Council voted unanimously Monday night to increase the tax rate, while at the same time cutting a utility surcharge placed on water and sewer bills.
The decision will actually create an annual savings in city-imposed costs to most property owners.
Also on Monday, council failed to discuss a blind resident’s request to add at least $5,000 to the budget to help him safely cross the road.
Council voted to increase the tax rate from the current $1.89 per $1,000 of taxable property value to about $1.96 per $1,000 of taxable property value — or 1.9592 mils — for Fiscal 2012.
The vote comes with a simultaneous decision by council to decrease a utility surcharge placed on water and sewer bills years ago when the city undertook a septic tank replacement project, which sought to remove septic tanks and put properties on a central sewer system.
The utility surcharge of 6 percent that customers pay on their monthly water and sewer bills will be reduced by about 2 percent. That decision will require a separate ordinance be approved by council, which is expected in October or November, officials said.
The money from the tax increase will be used to pay for a portion of road resurfacing. Previously, the road resurfacing surcharge was added to customers’ monthly water and sewer bills when the city undertook the septic tank replacement program.
The millage rate supports a budget of $21 million in the general fund, which is the city’s primary operating fund. It comes with the use of about $722,000 in reserves and reduces the utility budget by $500,000 to about $63 million, while the public works department’s budget was increased by about $500,000 to include the road resurfacing.
The city is anticipating about $800,000 in surplus at the end of this year, City Manager Jim Riviere said.
Some residents, including Ken Honecker, voiced overall approval for the decisions. He supported council striving to reduce and eventually eliminate the utility surcharge even if that meant increasing the tax rate.
“I support the kicker from the millage to get this back to where it should be,” Honecker said of the road resurfacing expense.
The increased tax rate and reduced utility surcharge came as little relief to resident Vincent Castellano, 54, who asked in April for council to consider purchasing at least one audible pedestrian signal at an intersection he uses frequently to refill prescriptions. Upgrading the signal will cost at least $5,000, Public Works Director Tim Pinter reported.
Council delayed a decision on the matter, saying they’d discuss it later in the evening. That discussion didn’t take place.
“Gentlemen, why do you feel you have to have discussions about a man’s safety?” asked Marco Island resident Jennifer Griffin, as she patted Castellano on the back when they approached council with their request. “I’m like a guide dog to him, so it’s my safety as well.”
Chairman Jerry Gibson said it’s just the way things work. Council will await more information from City Attorney Burt Saunders.
City Councilman Chuck Kiester was confident it would be done or at least come back for consideration soon.
“If it’s only $5,000, it’s certainly possible,” Kiester said. “Personally, I’d like to see us install at least one and see how it works.”