Letters to the Editor, May 25

Marco Eagle

Reduce communications tax

During our most recent City Council meeting on May 21, I had placed on the agenda my white paper recommending a reduction in a specific tax that is assessed by the city of Marco Island. The tax in question is called the “Local Communications Services Tax” (LCST) which is the locally controlled component of the state Communications Services tax. Each municipality and county sets their own specific portion of the overall rate. I recommended that the city reduce our LCST rate from 5.22 percent to 3.9 percent beginning on Jan. 1, followed by an automatic second reduction to 2.1 percent on Jan. 1, 2020, an approximate 60 percent reduction overall.

The Florida Department of Revenue defines the Communications Services Tax as follows: “Communications services tax (CST) is imposed on each sale of communications services in Florida. Examples of communications services include, but are not limited to: Cable and satellite television, Video and music streaming, Telephone, including Voice-over-Internet Protocol (VoIP), Mobile communications, and similar services.”

The LCST is a “hidden tax” in some ways because you aren’t paying it directly to the city of Marco Island nor are you paying it as part of your yearly ad valorem property tax bill to Collier County. It is also not a “one-time” tax. This tax is paid by the residents and businesses of Marco Island every single month forever when you pay your cell phone bill, your cable TV bill, your Netflix or Amazon streaming bill, or any other related communications services. It looks like it’s actually part of your bill for those individual services but that money is collected and then distributed after the fact to the city.

Editorial cartoon

Currently, unincorporated Lee County, unincorporated Collier County, the City of Bonita Springs, Estero, and Everglades City have lower LCST rates than the City of Marco Island. By lower the Marco Island rate to 2.1 percent we would be matching the lowest rate in all of Southwest Florida.

My proposal will reduce a burdensome and regressive tax on our local citizens. It takes a larger percentage of income from low-income earners and those on fixed incomes than from high-income earners. The tax is a burden on local families and small businesses and due to lower rates elsewhere in southwest Florida, including just directly over the bridge in unincorporated Collier County, it has a disproportionate impact on Marco Island residents. The higher tax rate may also depress seasonal residents or those moving to Marco Island full time from changing their out-of-state services to local ones, resulting in lower collected revenue.

It is important that we, as a council, continue to find ways to keep more money in our citizens’ pockets while providing the appropriate level of services by prioritizing tax dollars towards projects that our citizens most want. In an upcoming fiscal year which may see the increase in the county sales tax from six to seven percent, the City Council can provide relief to its citizens by reducing the rate of the regressive LCST beginning in 2019. Our citizens can count on less expensive monthly communications bills which will allow that money to be spent elsewhere locally or saved.

City Council voted 5-2 (Howard Reed and Joe Batte opposing) to support advancing my proposal from a discussion item to an action item. Based on that vote, this means at one of our upcoming Council meetings we will now have the opportunity to vote on whether or not to officially approve lowering your monthly tax bill. I will continue to advocate for fiscally conservative measures that will benefit all of our citizens on Marco Island.  

If you have any questions or would like to discuss further, please feel free to contact me at JGrifoni@MarcoCityCouncil.com.

Jared Grifoni, chairman, Marco Island City Council

Three American principles

Marco Island City Council Chairman Jared Grifoni suffered an embarrassing vote of “No Confidence” at last Monday’s Council meeting.  In so doing, Marco’s City Council demonstrated its willingness to begin placing its house in order. Three basic American principles came to my mind as a result of that vote:

  • Americans are serious about the First Amendment and reject attempts to silence criticism. 
  • Americans will denounce even the perception of political cover-ups and/or collusions.
  • Americans will definitely correct any politician’s Royal or Dictatorial tendency.

The vote of no confidence also stops the notion that a “slate” or “gang of four” sits on Marco’s City Council. Two of the “no confidence” votes came from Grifoni’s fellow campaigners, Charlette Roman and Howard Reed.

Kudos on their courage of their conviction.  It certainly supports the concept of a free-thinking, independent Marco Island City Council, does it not?

Russ Colombo, Marco Island