Guest Commentary: Rollback rate means no tax increase for Marco Island
Over the past few months, the city has been working on the Fiscal 2020 budget. City Council has held three budget workshops, focusing on the capital and operating expenditures. These workshops fine tune what will ultimately become the final budget in September. At that time, the City Council also finalizes the millage rate, which is the ad valorem property tax rate the city assesses against its citizens and makes up the vast majority of the tax revenue that operates the city.
As part of this process, City Council is responsible for setting the preliminary millage rate in July. This preliminary millage rate is utilized when local government sends out the tax bills later in the summer. The preliminary tax bills include your county, school, city, and other taxes and fees in advance of the final bill later this year. What’s particularly important about the preliminary millage rate is that it becomes the maximum that council can assess. In September, when the final rate is approved, City Council can approve the preliminary rate or it can reduce further.
I am happy to report that for the third year in a row, the City Council will approve rollback millage. There has been some confusion and misdirection over what the rollback millage rate actually means in recent media and it’s important that Marco Island taxpayers and voters know the truth. In fact, this entire process under Florida law is called “Truth In Millage”, and that’s where your TRIM notice acronym comes from. By definition and under Florida law, if the city adopts the rollback rate, the government is not increasing taxes. Let me repeat, the government is not increasing taxes. Our tax rate is actually going down once again, great news!
The rollback rate calculates taxable property value based on total revenue. If the rollback rate is adopted that means that your individual city tax bill will be the same compared to last year. Even if your property has increased in taxable value then your taxes will stay the same because the tax rate was reduced by the same margin. Rollback is designed to not give the government a raise and keep it within its means. If you owned a vacant piece of land last year and then built a two-story luxury home on it this year, your property will be taxed at the rollback rate but the new value you constructed will now factor in to the total assessment.
City Council adopting rollback means your tax rate has now decreased three years in a row. The proposed 2020 millage rate is the lowest it has been in 10 years. Never before in our island’s history has a City Council set the property tax rate at rollback three years in a row. The rate is lower now than way back in Fiscal 2011! Since the 2016 election, the property tax rate has been reduced by approximately 10 percent. For comparison sake, the property tax rate increased above rollback three years in a row up to and including Fiscal 2016, topping out at 2.0466 (the highest rate ever!). Compare to the FY20 rate of 1.8057 set by this current Council.
It’s important to remember that this has been done while the city budget has accommodated a significant increase in number of employees, increases in benefit costs, new union contracts, additional roadway paving, and with increases in water quality testing and processes included in the FY2020 draft budget plus many more improvements.
When I ran for City Council in 2016, I promised to support the rollback rate or below for our citizens because I believe that our city government can be run effectively in a fiscally conservative manner while providing the services our citizens’ desire. I’m confident that with new City Manager Mike McNees our city services will also see solid improvement. There’s still work to be done, but it can be done without punishing our citizens on fixed incomes, growing families, or small businesses with crippling and ever-increasing tax rates.
Please reach out to me if you’d like to discuss this or any other issue. You can reach me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone (239) 315-2089.