Two major issues affecting both residents and businesses on Sanibel were addressed by City Council at its July 16 meeting at City Hall - a probable reduction of fees associated with the building and planning department permit applications; and setting the proposed millage rate with the Lee County property appraiser for the 2013 tax year.
In both instances, islanders will be feeling less of a burden on their shoulders again for the next year.
"Staff proposed the (millage) rollback rate, which is less than last year," said Sanibel city manager Judie Zimomra.
The current millage rate set one year ago was 2.1--. The new operating rate for 2013 is 2.0861, which is the rollback rate proposed by city staff for the next city budget.
The millage levy for the sewer debt service is .2295 while the rate for land acquisition debt service is even lower at .0860. The levy for the Sanibel Recreation Center debt service is a mere .1291 mills.
Proposed aggregate taxes levied, excluding the debt service rates, amounts to $8,580,499.
The city and council continue to trim the budget and the millage rate during the down economy with Sanibel's property values still in a decline, but much less than just last year.
Property values in Lee County overall are on the rise, though a mere 1.99 percent, with three exceptions being Sanibel, Captiva and Upper Captiva, according to property appraiser Ken Wilkinson. It has been six years since the overall values have risen.
Sanibel in one of five municipalities in the county to show a decrease by .54 percent, but that is an improvement over recent years. Captiva and Upper Captiva fire districts face more severe decreases of 5.44 percent and 12.4 percent, respectively.
Council also set the budget's first public meeting and hearing for 9 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 7, where the the millage rate for 2014 will be adopted. The second and final hearing takes place on Tuesday, Sept. 17, where the final millage rate will be adopted.
Council intends to review the building and planning department fees as part of their 2013-14 fiscal budget analysis over the next two months. While there are no guarantees, Mayor Kevin Ruane and other council members talked as if the fee reductions are set in stone.
"I support a reduction in the fees, but not the part of this resolution that makes it retroactive to June 5," said councilman Mick Denham. "I think it's unfair to make exceptions for one applicant over another."
Ruane made it clear that council should have reduced the fees at their June 5 meeting, but wanted more data from city staffers and elected to put it off until the budget discussions.
"In hindsight, we should have done it then, but we didn't," Ruane said. "That's why retroactive was put in this resolution. The end balance in the account came out the same as the end balance before the reduction. It was supposed to decline, but it didn't."
Ultimately, council passed the resolution to determine whether a reduction in the fees is warranted, with the retroactive feature amended to include applications filed from June 5 to Dec. 31, by a 4-0 vote. Councilman Marty Harrity, who is part of an ownership group wanting to build a restaurant on a vacant parcel on Tarpon Bay Road across from Bailey's General Store, abstained from voting because he possibly could benefit from the fee reduction.
Those items were not the only fee reductions Sanibel residents will feel in the next year. The residential curbside waste collection, commercial curbside waste collection and dumpster waste collection fees through Advanced Disposal, formerly Veolia, also will see a reduction for the next budget cycle as council passed a resolution setting those fees.
Residential solid waste collection bills will show a decrease of 0.7 percent while the commercial curbside rate will decrease by 0.4 percent. The rate for dumpsters declines by 1.4 percent