Raises for staff and law enforcement, as well as a new derelict vessel removal program and a strategic plan, are among the items accounting for increased spending in Islamorada’s upcoming budget cycle. 

A second budget hearing held Sept. 14 inside Founders Park Community Center saw the dais adopting a finalized millage rate of 3.00 mills for 2021-22. The rate represents tax collections of $300 per $100,000 of taxable assessed value. 

Based on valuations completed earlier in the year, the millage rate is a 5.3% increase from a rolled-back rate of 2.849. The rolled-back rate is based on current taxable values that would allow the village to bring in the same tax collections from the prior year. 

A 3.00 millage rate would bring in $12.3 million in ad valorem taxes. An adopted budget with a 3.015 millage rate last year brought in $11.5 million. 

“I think it’s important to point out to the public that revenue we collect from ad valorem increased dramatically this year due in large part to the amount of new value that came online from new construction, close to a quarter of a billion dollars,” Councilman Mark Gregg said. “We’re not charging more, we have more property to tax. That’s what’s happening.”

Revenue from local government half-cent sales tax is budgeted at $1.3 million, while reimbursement from FEMA for Irma expenses is budgeted at $400,000. Franchise fees for solid waste are expected to bring the village $700,000. 

Islamorada Village Manager Greg Oravec said the budget adds one public works employee and three law enforcement personnel. The budget accounts for a 7.86% increase for sheriff’s deputies, a cost of living increase of 5% for employees making less than $100,000 and a 3% raise for employees making over $100,000. 

Expenditures within the 2021-22 general fund total $17.9 million. That’s up from $14.8 million from last year’s adopted budget. Oravec attributed a spending increase to one-time expenditures, such as $300,000 for a new program to remove derelict vessels from the water.

“What we really want with one-time expenditures is an adequate return on investment. We want to make sure we really get something out of those one-time expenditures,” Oravec said. “Whether it’s control or moving the community with purchase or acquisition, or it’s a 2023 road map or a strategic master plan that tells us where we’re going, those are the kind of things you want to use one-time money on.”

Village council’s budget saw a $70,000 increase in order to provide donations to local nonprofit organizations. 

With a 3.00 millage rate, village Finance Director Maria Bassett said the village would use $639,500 from fund balance. Bassett said the unassigned balance would still be at 43% of budgeted expenses. 

“The millage rates were higher in prior years, especially as we were going through the Hurricane Irma recovery and then we started getting our Irma reimbursements,” Bassett said. “Our unassigned fund balance is very healthy.”

A little over $12.4 million is budgeted for capital project expenses for 2021-22. A master plan for the Fills is included in the capital projects list at $300,000. Improvements to Green Turtle Hammock are budgeted for $750,000 and Key Tree Cactus Preserve at $300,000. Various canal restoration projects totaling $275,000 are also included in the capital budget. A FEMA Hazard Mitigation Assistance grant of $1.5 million will pay for safe room projects, which are designed to protect people in public and private structures from hurricanes, and floodproofing.