Monday, December 6, 2021

Budget, Boats & Bids at Council Meeting

Photo by Steve Stefanides | 32-foot Contender Boat approved by the council for Marco P.D.

The July 20th meeting of the Marco Island City Council revolved around spending, but little discussion was held regarding the budget as the details concerning next year’s appropriations to meet those needs had already been thoroughly discussed. That discussion took place during two workshops held regarding the operational and the capital budgets which began in the early summer. 

Nine of those agenda items were covered under what is known as the “consent agenda.” However, two of those items were pulled off for minor clarifications by Councilman Reed, and subsequently quickly given approval. 

When it came to the budget for the fiscal year 2020-2021, the council was pleased to hear they were notified of an unanticipated $24,000,000 windfall of additional taxable value. That would allow the final tax rate to drop from $1.7631 to $1.7610 per $1000 of valuation.  

If a residence is assessed at $500,000 of taxable value after all applicable deductions, including the Homestead Exemption and the Save our Home deduction, their city taxes would be only $880.50. That doesn’t mean your total tax bill would only be $880.50 though, as county, school, state school tax levies, the Mosquito Control District and South Florida Water Management are added to your final bill. The city in the last year has retired the bond for the Veterans Community Park and that for the building which houses the police station and the city council chambers, therefore freeing up additional income. 

The $1.7610 per thousand does capture all costs for city fire, police, public works, parks and recreation services and all administrative costs to run the city. It reflects a 3.9% increase in city spending over the 2019-2020 budget, which will expire on September 30. The new budget will take effect on October 1, 2020. 

New council member Greg Foley commented that he hoped during the next budget process that the council would concentrate on looking at a reduction in spending. “I think we should be looking harder at leaving more money in the taxpayers’ pocket, not just the roll-back figure.  

Foley had joined the council after former Councilor Sam Young resigned due to personal reasons.  

The City Council approved the budget on a vote of 7-0. Councilor Roman attended telephonically from a remote location.  

Police Chief Tracy Frazzano came forward later in the evening to request the purchase of a new vessel for the police department. Her proposed request would not exceed $255,000 for a Contender ST32 ft. center console and would be equipped with two Mercury outboards. It would take the place of the much older unit presently in service that has become extremely expensive to maintain over the years. The use of twin outboards would allow the department better ease of maneuverability in some of the island’s narrow canals, while the length would allow officers a safer foundation to bridge rough waters along the Gulf of Mexico in emergencies. The new boat will also feature a dive door to allow discharging divers into the water for rescue or recovery efforts. 

The funding for the purchase was made possible due to the implementation of former City Manager Roger Hernstadt’s innovative “bucket plan. That plan was placed into effect during the 2013-2014 budgeting cycle. That plan would have the city anticipate in advance for these types of known capital expenditures, allowing for a structured and planned acquisition of these larger capital items. 

The City Council approved the use of those dedicated funds for the purchase of the boat. It is anticipated delivery would take approximately 8 months from the vendor. 

That evening, City Council also approved a variance application for the Shops of Marco for temporary signs along San Marco and Barfield Drive to ensure customers are aware that those other storefronts within the plaza are open and doing business. 

They also dealt with a protest of a recent bid for the purchase of 60 portable generators to power lift stations should power go out on the island due to another major storm event. L.J. Power, Inc. was awarded the bid for a total of $2,640,000 after a review by the technical and engineering staff of the city. However, the secondlowest bidder ($2,809,500) questioned whether the bid by L.J. Power, Inc. was complete and pointed out several items he felt were out of order. That bidder, Evergreen Specialty Services, chose to challenge their findings and went to the next step, which was an appeal to the council. 

After a rather lengthy presentation by attorneys for Evergreen and questioning by council members, the City Council moved to dismiss the challenge to the bid and uphold the city’s position. This was only the second time in the city’s 22-year history in which a bid award was challenged. The other time involved a bid during the controversial STRP project. 

The City Council will next meet on Monday, August 17th, at 5:30 PM in the council chambers. There is only one meeting scheduled in July and August, unless an emergency necessitates an additional meeting. 

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