Your Turn: Looking back at 2018, ahead to 2019
Another election season is in the books and the holidays are drawing to a close. Marco Island is entering 2019 with a renewed sense of optimism, as we look back at the challenges and accomplishments from this past year.
In 2018 election news, Vice-Chairman Victor Rios won his re-election bid and Chairman Erik Brechnitz and Councilor Sam Young were elected for the first time. I am looking forward to working with all three of them to help make Marco Island the best it can be.
The biggest issue the council tackled over the last year was the search for a city manager. Leading up to the recent election, City Council voted 4-2 to offer the interim position to James Harden of Delray Beach. While that represented a majority, our charter requires a supermajority to hire a new manager. This item was brought back post-election with the newly elected councilors voting in favor of hiring Mr. Harden in a 6-1 vote. Council will vote on the terms of his contract scheduled for January 7, 2019.
The community made it clear throughout the election that hiring a city manager was of paramount importance. I am pleased that it was made the number-one priority by the new council. James Harden offers abundant Florida City Manager experience, including as an interim-manager, and offers a wealth of knowledge that will benefit Marco Island and our city staff.
You've probably noticed the drive around the island has gotten a little smoother. That's because this past year we've allocated over $2 million dollars to repave damaged roadways throughout the island (without raising taxes), including portions of Collier, San Marco, Kendall, Bald Eagle, and more.
Damaged Fire Station 51 was demolished and is now nearly rebuilt. I know our Fire Rescue department is eager to move in. Station 51 responds to 40 percent of the calls on this island and is the marine base for our rescue boat. The new building is state of the art and will serve our citizens for a long time. It was partially paid for with grants from the state of Florida totaling $1 million plus additional insurance proceeds resulting from the lightning strike that damaged the original facility. Our fire fighters will soon have the base they deserve and one we can all be proud of.
During the budget discussion, I am proud to say that for the second year in a row, City Council voted in favor of the rollback rate. When I was elected in 2016, the tax rate was already set at 1.9966. We reduced that to 1.8976 last year and further reduced it to 1.8487 this year – a total reduction of just under .15 mils. Even with the tax cut, Council was still able to approve the addition of three MIPD School Resource Officers to further protect our Marco Island schools.
Earlier this year, I also proposed a reduction of the Local Communications Services Tax. In June, Council approved the 60 percent tax cut between January 2019 and January 2020. Based on current calculations, this will save Marco Island citizens approximately $500,000 dollars yearly. The tax was a burden on local families and small businesses and had a disproportionate impact on Marco Island residents as our City had a higher tax rate than unincorporated Lee County, unincorporated Collier County, the City of Bonita Springs, Estero, and Everglades City.
Coming up on January 7, I have authored a white paper recommending that the City Council adopt an ordinance requiring a supermajority vote for any capital expenditure at a cost over 10 percent of the average of the last four fiscal year’s general fund local tax revenue. Our citizens want a fiscally conservative city government and this would be a big step in the right direction. Citizens can also look forward to future Council actions this year on water quality, parking, endangered species protection, and much more.
Wishing you all a prosperous New Year!
If you’d like to discuss this or any other issue further, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-315-2089.