A $6,000 air conditioning unit was the only contested item during the final adoption of the 2011-12 Bonita Springs budget.
Council members voted unanimously in favor of a $19.5 million budget with a tax rate of .8273 mils. That’s about $150,000 less than last year’s approved budget, which gathered taxes at a rate of .8609 mils.
That means next year’s tax rate will be lower for city residents.
But not everyone walked away satisfied.
Donna Nemsick with the Bonita Springs Historical Society pleaded with council to fund a new air conditioning unit for the non-profit group.
“Next year we have several fund raisers planned and we are expecting that to cover our operating expense,” Nemsick said. “It is a big-ticket item that we had to hold off on.”
Councilman John Spear said he supports historic preservation and the local group, but he also said that there is not a fair process in place for the city to fund charities.
“I just think this is not what the city incorporated for 11 years ago,” Spear said. “If these folks can’t raise another $6,000 in the private community to get this done, then they’ve got problems beyond getting air conditioning.”
Councilwoman Martha Simons disagreed.
“If you don’t get air conditioning in the building, it’s going to mold,” Simons said. “They put on programs, they’ve brought a lot to the city and helped retain our history. For $6,000, I don’t have a problem with that.”
Mayor Ben Nelson said the idea of creating a funding mechanism for local charities may be considered in the future. Still, he didn’t think funding non-profit groups in a tough economy is a smart move for the city.
“I don’t necessarily have any problem with the $6,000, but as (Councilman) John (Spear) put it, we really don’t have a process for supply money and grants,” Nelson said.