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Town council approves tax rate, budget

September 12, 2018
By CHUCK BALLARO ( , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

The Fort Myers Beach Town Council on Monday approved a tentative millage and budget for the 2019 fiscal year during its meeting at Town Hall.

The council voted unanimously to set the not-to-exceed millage at .8700 mills, the same as last year, while setting the budget at $18,121,265.

A mill is $1 for every $1,000 of taxable property valuation.

There were two issues that came up during the budget discussion; the amount of money spent on recreation areas such as the Mound House, Bay Oaks and Newton Home & Park, and the need to maintain the budget for the Lee County Sheriff's Office presence.

Council member Dennis Boback said for many years the recreation areas accounted for more than half the town's budget and, even now, is concerned about the money being spent.

"I'm not trying to get rid of them. They're assets for the town, but there comes a time when you have to stop the bleeding," Boback said. "I want to see the taxes creep down."

Mayor Tracey Gore was upset over the budget that had slashed $15,000 from the Sheriff's Office expenditure, saying there are people sleeping under the bridge and there is a need to get them out.

Gore's plan to fund law enforcement; stop funding fireworks for New Year's Eve.

"I don't want to shoot them over the water and dirty up the water even more with the fireworks," Gore said. "Maybe we can do a laser light show. We need to take care of our backyard."

Council member Anita Cereceda said she liked the budget.

"The budget is a working document and throughout the year so I don't get too emotionally attached," Cereceda said. "The LCSO supports this community. They always have, so I never have a concern with them."

In other business, the town council was mixed in regard to confirming the selection of new town attorney Thomas Thanas.

Cereceda said Thanas did not meet the requirements regarding experience working in Florida.

Vice Mayor Joanne Shamp said that state experience was only preferred and that if they wanted it as a requirement they should have said so.

"I'm concerned. There are a lot of nuances and the complexities of the issues here. We put Florida experience in for a reason," Cereceda said.

Gore supported Thanas, saying that he reminded her of former town manager Jim Steele, who also practiced law up north.

Boback said he was on the fence, but Thanas met the requirements and the town council chose him on Aug. 20. He was the deciding vote in a 3-2 vote to confirm Thanas, with Cereceda and Council member Bruce Butcher dissenting.

The vote on his contract was 4-1 with Cereceda again dissenting.

The town also extended its suspension of parking fees at all pay stations until Sept. 30. It had originally suspended them to Sept. 10 during its last meeting. It also approved a condominium conversion on Estero Boulevard.



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