Friends & Supporters,
Only two meetings were held in July, traditionally a light month for Council activity. Both were on July 18: an operating budget workshop in the afternoon and a regular Council meeting in the evening. In the afternoon, each of the departments presented their proposed budgets for FY 2023. Several presented good arguments for expanding their staffs to meet additional needs for the community. After listening to each presentation, Council was presented with two options: 1. Support incremental spending above existing levels by reducing the millage rollback rate less than would be necessary to hold Marco Island property taxes flat year over year, thereby funding the additional headcount requested, or 2. Keep taxes flat and allow new initiatives only if funded by finding savings elsewhere in the budget. Council directed the city manager and staff to proceed consistent with option 2, keeping taxes flat for Marco Island homeowners for the sixth straight year.
In the evening session the principal item of business on the agenda was approving the proposed millage rate for FY 2023 based on option 2 above. Given the dramatic increase in property values year over year, this meant the millage (tax) rate per $1000 of assessed valuation had to come down from 1.7088 percent to 1.4837 percent. Council approved this reduction, thereby holding property tax payments for homeowners flat for the sixth straight year, and making Marco’s tax rate one of the lowest in the entire state of Florida, particularly among cities that provide a full range of services including fire and police protection. I asked our finance manager, Gil Polanco, to calculate savings to typical homeowners based on the assessed valuation of their homes. According to his calculations, a homesteaded property with an assessed valuation of $500,000 when the tax rollbacks began in 2017 would have saved over $1000 in taxes over what their taxes would have been without the six years of rate reduction. The difference this year alone was nearly $350. For a house valued at $1million in 2017, the savings are twice that amount: $2123 since 2017 and nearly $700 this year alone. While these savings are very positive and important, perhaps more important is that the city has had to live within its means and operate with a high degree of fiscal discipline. Without the rollback rate the city would have had nearly 20% more to spend this year than it would have without the tax rollbacks, which would have lead to a significantly larger government on the Island and much less scrutiny paid by Council to every taxpayer dollar spent. I am very proud to serve on a council which operates with such a high focus on keeping government small and efficient and assuring that the burden on taxpayers remains as low as possible. It is hard to point to a jurisdiction anywhere which has done as well in this regard.
Otherwise, most of the July 18 meeting was spent with proponents and opponents of the proposed rental registration ordinance speaking their minds about the pros and cons of the ordinance as proposed. Some opponents of the ordinance stated their fear that if passed, all short term rentals on the Island would immediately be banned. They assert that this is because no registration process now exists and rentals under the ordinance are not allowed absent registration, so therefore, all rentals would have to stop until a registration process is created, staff are hired to administer it, and the homeowner has been properly registered under the new process. I am convinced that this fear is unfounded, as council will have the opportunity to create a transition period before any enforcement actions would be taken, and I am positive that council will do this if the referendum passes.
I have long been supportive of a reasonable rental registration ordinance, and am hopeful that at the end of this process, of which the referendum is the critical next step, we will end up with a registration ordinance which is reasonable and respects the rights of all property owners, those who rent their homes and those who don’t.
Please get out and vote — the primary election date is August 23 and early voting begins on August 13 at the library.
Our next meeting is August 15. I will be in touch again thereafter. Have a great August!
Greg S. Folley
940 Cape Marco Dr, Unit 2006
Marco Island, FL 34145