The Marco Island City Council took its first step in creating a 2015-2016 operating budget for the city, setting the property tax rate at $2.0466 per $1,000 valuation for city services for the next fiscal year beginning Oct. 1.

Should the council approve that rate following formal public hearings, the owner of a property assessed at $400,000 would be looking at a city tax of $920.97 or $74.75 per month for city services such as police, fire-rescue, public works, recreation and parks, building services, growth management and the operation of the city administrative staff.

Under the requirements dictated by state law, the city must report a number to the state during July, which is a “not to exceed” tax rate for those services provided.

Council will be taking up the details of next year’s spending plan during the next two months and will set a final budget during September.

City Manager Roger Hernstadt briefed council on July 20 on some of the details of what the staff is proposing. It will include a recommendation for a 3 percent raise for non-contractual employees.

Those are employees not covered under contract negotiation such as police and fire personnel.

“We want our citizens to be confident that the cost of government is effective and efficient,” said Hernstadt.

“We are conservative on income projections and very careful on expenditures to ensure we come in under budget,” said Hernstadt while responding to council members’ questions.

The budget Hernstadt was proposing did have the “bucket plan” included within his numbers.

That plan includes the funding of capital expenses, which under previous administrations had required some bonding or borrowing of funds to cover needed expenses. Under the plan adopted by council last year, that requirement went away as provisions for those needs were budgeted for each year.

The Marco Island Utility, which covers sewer and water operations, comes under an enterprise fund and is funded through the local rate structure and has nothing to do with the operational budget for the city.

Expenses for schools and the operation of Collier County are separate and distinct from the city’s budget and have their own budgeting process with similar requirements.

Council will meet on Aug. 3 for its first workshop on the budget starting at 1 p.m. in city council chambers on Bald Eagle Drive behind city hall.

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