PRELIMINARY ISLAMORADA BUDGET PROPOSES A TAX HIKE

Islamorada Village Council established a preliminary millage rate of 3.000 for the 2022-23 budget during a recent meeting. PIXABAY/Contributed

With budget season nearing, the Islamorada Village Council established a preliminary millage rate of 3.000 for the 2022-23 fiscal year at its July 14 meeting at Founders Park Community Center. 

Skyrocketing property values in the village could mean more tax revenue. But high costs for fuel and materials could mean more village expenses. The dais will convene for two budget workshops next month to hash out the details. The council will also have new Village Manager Ted Yates, who starts Aug. 1. 

A proposed millage rate of 3.000, unanimously approved by council members, represents a 17.88% increase above the rolled-back rate of 2.5449. The rolled-back rate produces the same amount of tax dollars from the previous year, which saw the taxable value in the village at $4.2 billion. This year, property values increased by $800 million to around $5 billion. 

Last year, the council approved a $17.9-million spending plan with a millage rate of 3.000. The rate represents tax collections of $300 per $100,000 of taxable assessed value. In the 2021-22 budget, a 3.000 millage rate brought $12.3 million in tax revenue. Keeping that rate for the coming budget year would bring roughly $15 million to the village. 

“Setting a higher rate provides the village council with some latitude in determining its final rate for adoption,” states a staff analysis provided to the dais. 

Maria Bassett, finance director and acting village manager, said the millage rate of 3.000 is established for discussion purposes only and has no budget impact on residents and property owners or on village operations at this time. Discussions surrounding the budget by the council during workshops in August will lead to a finalized millage rate and budget for adoption. 

The five members making up the dais all agreed a millage rate of 3.000 was a good place to start. 

“It’s not advantageous for us to try and go from lower rate to higher rate, if during the budget process we think or decide that we do need the high rate,” Councilman David Webb said. 

Budget workshops are set for Aug. 8 and Aug. 10 at 3 p.m. at Founders Park Community Center. Budget hearings are set for Sept. 8 and Sept. 19 at 5:30 p.m. at Founders Park Community Center. 

Village council members approved a resolution to enter into an agreement with the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office for police services beginning Oct. 1 through Sept. 30 for $2.6 million. It’s a 10% increase from the year before, and it’s due to personnel costs and benefits and new vehicles patrolling the community.

The dais also approved an amendment to its agreement with the Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority for reimbursement of credit card fees incurred by Islamorada wastewater customers. 

In March 2022, FKAA contacted the village to request an amendment to the 2015 Agreement whereby the village would reimburse FKAA for credit card fees incurred for Islamorada wastewater customers. FKAA explained that it did not want to pass the fees on to the customers using credit and debit cards for payment. 

FKAA currently processes 4,986 wastewater customer bills for the village at a cost of $1.45 per bill each month. The total monthly payment to FKAA for billing services is approximately $7,300. Review of billing detail indicates that FKAA is currently paying about $7,200 in credit card fees. The village’s payment to FKAA for billing services would double each month starting Oct. 1. 

FKAA would continue to bill the village customers on behalf of the village, collect village wastewater charges and transfer to the village the wastewater charges collected.

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Jim McCarthy is a Western New Yorkers who escaped the snow and frigid temperatures for warm living by the water. A former crime & court reporter and city editor for two Western New York newspapers, Jim has been honing his craft since he graduated from St. Bonaventure University in 2014. In his 3-plus years in the Keys, Jim has enjoyed connecting with the community. “One of my college professors would always preach to be curious,” he said. “Behind every person is a story that’s unique to them, and one worth telling. As writers, we are the ones who paint the pictures in the readers minds of the emotions, the struggles and the triumphs.” Jim is past president of the Key Largo Sunset Rotary Club, which is composed of energetic members who serve the community’s youth and older populations. Jim is a sports fanatic who loves to watch football, mixed martial arts and golf. He loves to hit the links and play some softball with his Make A Play team. He also enjoys time with family (he's expecting a little boy in October).