The Marco Island City Council on Monday evening adopted a budget and millage rate which will essentially come in at the rollback rate of $1.8492 and raise $19,217,265 in funds for operational purposes. Those dollars do not include enterprise funds, grants and other sources of income.
An additional millage rate of $.0796 is also part of the city’s revenue stream and pays for the bond that covers the purchase of the property which is now known as Veterans Community Park.
An additional $2,000,000 was originally included within the budget for funding the start-up costs that would have been incurred had the community voted yes during the referendum held regarding ambulance service. That referendum was rejected by the voters on August 28th.
For a home assessed for $500,000 of taxable value the impact would result in a city tax bill of $924.60. Those operating costs would include expenses related to funding city council expenses, city manager’s office, finance, legal, growth management, information technology, general government, police, fire, code compliance, public works, parks and recreation and all capital costs.
On that same $500,000 home the cost to carry the bond for Veterans Community Park would amount to $39.80. The homeowner would therefore be paying a total of $964.40.
Both Councilors Howard Reed and Bob Brown made passionate pleas to address the growing discrepancies in employee pay. Reed spoke to the need to have the city’s employees paid at a rate comparable with surrounding governmental agencies such as Collier/Lee County and the City of Naples. In an interview after the meeting Reed spoke to the danger of a flight of talent from the city and the impact on services. “We will become a training ground for excellent employees who will gravitate to organizations willing to compensate them fairly. All these folks have families and they will put that need ahead of everything else, and I can’t blame them.”
Citizen Bob Rowe of Angler Court came forward praise the professionalism of city employees and brought forward a comparison of starting pay for a police officer on Marco Island and a Waste Management driver (the man that picks up your trash). The police officer’s starting pay is just over $41,000 and the starting pay at Waste Management is $52,000.
Brown made a motion to approve the city budget with a 10% across the board raise for employees. That motion was seconded by Reed. It came after the millage rate was adopted and put the emphasis of determining how that would be implemented into the city manager’s hands. It followed past suggestions from Councilor Larry Honig to provide the city manager with a bottom line to be expended and to let him determine where and how to utilize the monies. It did not provide councilors with an opportunity to see an operational overview, but delegated that responsibility to the city manager.
That motion failed by a 4-2 vote with only Reed and Brown voting in the affirmative. Councilor Joe Batte was absent.
The budget and tax rate came in under $3,373,112 below the Charter mandated “Spending Cap.” That provision allows for 3% growth, plus COLA. The city is presently in negotiations with both the police and fire unions for three-year contracts and it appears this action may limit any opportunity to be flexible in that area.