STRAIGHT TALK: Need more return on tax investment

Steve Stefanides

When we look at our tax bills each year we have a tendency to relate the amount we pay to the local municipality we live in. Unfortunately that is a common error made by many, for if you read your tax bill you'll find a majority of those dollars you pay go for services outside your own community.

The truth of the matter is we pay more than 47 percent of our tax dollars

Steve Stefanides

here on Marco Island to support education, both on the local and state level. Just more than 30 percent goes to the county for support of a myriad of services.

Only 17.3 percent of that check you made out last year goes to pay for local services provided by the city. Those numbers are similar for other communities around the state and the nation, and reflect the need for a more focused and determined effort to be vigilant of both county and school spending. This also illuminates the need to see more of our assets returned to the island.

As taxpayers, we have a reputation here for demanding that we spend our money wisely, at least on the local level. However, we don't appear to have that sharp of a focus on getting the "best bang for the buck" with other governments.

One of the services that should receive some support from the county in an annual stipend for recreation and parks services. During this last season, we've seen many wonderful activities provided to the community and our visitors.

When I visit Canine Cove with little Maddie, I love to hear the wonderful comments about the great job the city does with parks. Many of those I speak with are from just off the island and come here for the convenience and the amenities. There is nothing wrong with that and we should welcome our neighbors, but the county should be aware of the need to help fund these activities and support their maintenance. They act as "regional parks."

A review of the attendance at events and the use of facilities may show between 30-35 percent of usage by those living in the county, but off the island.

Islanders are not isolationists, but are welcoming individuals and families who recognize the advantages of the inclusive nature of our greater community, but would like the return of some of those dollars that float into the Collier County coffers each year.

We are fortunate to live in a community with so many blessings. To live in a portion of the nation that many aspire to live in and so many visit each year. The contributions to the Tourist Development Tax coffers is staggering from our little island and we've been fortunate to see some of that money reinvested in our beaches to keep them pristine and welcoming to our many residents and visitors.

We are also faced with the challenge of ensuring adequate funding for education of our students here. With 47 percent of our property tax dollars flowing off the island to both the state and local levels for education, you might think we wouldn't have to beg.

Tommie Barfield Elementary is an example of how things are done right on the elementary level.

The Marco Island Charter Middle School knocks the ball out of the park when it comes to providing our children a strong springboard into the high school years, while the Marco Island Academy continues to exceed expectations.

Both the Charter Middle School and the Marco Island Academy should be provided with the same resources as other public schools in the district. They should be treated with the respect they have rightfully earned.

The only way to be assured of that is being involved in the process. Let your voices be heard in an educated and respectful manner.