MARCO ISLAND — Did the numbers reflect a six percent utility rate hike, he wanted to know. Some confusion reigned, with council members, City Manager Jim Riviere and Finance Director Robert Lange attempting to address the issue.
"We're perpetuating the misconception we approved a six percent rate increase," said Trotter, advocating the City Council hold a workshop prior to the next regular meeting to discuss it. "Right now, we're getting mixed messages. I don't know what we're approving."
"I recall agreeing we could adopt the budget, and then reconcile it," said Councilman Frank Recker. "Adopt the budget, knowing we can change it, and go ahead with the second reading."
"The first step is get the general budget approved. Second, take up the water and sewer department," said Riviere.
Trotter, who was on last year's budget sub-committee, but not this year's, brought up the increase in operating expenses for the city, amounting to $950,000. "How are we covering that? We're taking it from reserves," he said.
Marco resident and council candidate Ken Honecker, making his fifth or sixth trip to the mic to address the meeting, said, "this council is, dare I say, a little dysfunctional. It seems like you kind of pulled a fast one on us," he added saying that money had been shifted from surcharge to the ad valorem category. Lange said no reserves were being taken from the general fund.
After repeated exchanges, with the other councilors ready to have the budget's first reading approved – it must come back for a second reading at a subsequent meeting – Recker had had enough.
"I feel like it's the OK Corral. I'm being ambushed so you can support some political candidates that are running for council," he said to Trotter. "I don't have time for that."
"I resent your implication I'm making a political statement," shot back Trotter. "The last one with a political agenda is me. I'm not running. The rest of you are running."
Batte "called the question," the vote was taken, and the budget's first reading was approved 5-1, with Trotter dissenting. The council also approved the city's millage rate, and the budget and millage rate for the Hideaway Beach Special Taxing District, without dissension.
Before the tax millage was approved, Riviere ran through a summary of the tax revenue and millages, and the decisions and changes to the budget that had been made during the previous round of meetings. The millage rate approved was 1.96, generating $13,872,305 in tax revenue, in comparison to the previous year's 1.9592 mills.
Chairman Magel, contacted by phone the next day, said he had watched the meeting on public access television.
"That was unfortunate," he said of the confrontation between councilors. "People don't understand, a budget is nothing more than a planning document. The key is managing the operations of the city so you don't spend all the money in the budget." For the previous year, he said, on a budget of $21.5 million, Marco Island had ended the year with $1.5 million not spent.
City Council's next meeting is scheduled for Sept. 17. The FY13 budget must be finalized before the fiscal year's beginning on Oct. 1.