Guest commentary: Capping a successful 2019; looking ahead
Yet another year has passed by and we enter into the 2020’s with much to look forward to for our island community. Over the past year, the City Council has tackled numerous issues of importance and the city has seen many changes. We can now take a moment to look back on 2019 and what the new year has in store for us.
In 2019, we said “thank you and fare well” to our interim City Manager David Harden and welcomed new City Manager Mike McNees onboard. New police Chief Tracy Frazzano joined the team during the late summer. Both City Manager McNees and Chief Frazzano have spent much time meeting individuals and groups on the island and working hard to advance positive action for Marco Island.
During our fiscal year 2020 budget discussions, the City Council once again voted to approve the rollback millage rate. This feat has been accomplished now for three years in a row, and I’ve voted in favor of rollback every year that I’ve been a member of the City Council. What this means for our taxpayers is that your city property tax rate has now significantly decreased three years in a row. You might recall the recently popular “Ten Year Challenge” on social media, comparing present day to ten years ago. The Marco Island version shows that our tax rate is lower today than it was 10 years ago! What a change from years of property tax hikes from the not too distant past!
Speaking of taxes, the Local Communications Services Tax (“LCST”) cut that I proposed to Council back in 2018 has now fully gone into effect. The LCST was cut in two phases that went into effect in January of 2019 and January of 2020. This tax has now been cut by 60 percent and will save Marco Island taxpayers approximately $500,000 or more per year. Every dollar saved that helps our families, local small businesses, and retirees is a great thing.
Last January, I proposed a capital spending protection ordinance to City Council and by April it was voted on and approved. I know Marco Island’s taxpayers expect a high degree of fiscal responsibility in their government, so I advanced an ordinance that would require a supermajority, which is five votes in favor instead of four, to approve certain large capital expenditures of approximately $2 million or greater. This will help ensure that large expenditures have broad community support and aren’t just divisive pet projects the community doesn’t approve of.
The City Council continued to increase roadway improvement by advancing the resurfacing program much faster than in years past. The increased focused started in 2017 and 2018 by prioritizing millions of dollars to resurface the most travelled roads and those in the worst condition unlike past haphazard approaches. This continues to be a long-term priority. City Council responded to sidewalk repair concerns by drastically reducing some of the draconian policies of past Councils to lessen the burden on property owners. Additionally, council has directed the city manager to provide us with cost estimates for taking over the entire sidewalk maintenance program, removing a huge burden from the shoulders of many citizens. This issue is scheduled to come back to Council in February.
Water quality is a top priority and received much deserved attention last year. Council approved hundreds of thousands of dollars in improvements in monthly water quality testing, a proposal to identify the source of pollutants, stormwater policy and management, median remodeling, water/sewer reuse water and treatment upgrades, and swale assessment analysis. There is also consensus from Council to allocate millions of dollars from the sales tax to clean up our water going forward because there’s much more to be done.
Community art, wildlife and environmental protections, Veterans’ Community Park improvements, parking, hurricane preparedness, and much more were worked on throughout the year. All are meaningful and are funded without raising city taxes on our citizens.
I’d be happy to discuss any of these issues with you in greater detail. You can reach me via email at email@example.com or call 239-315-2089.