Islamorada’s tentative millage rate and a tentative budget show no increases for the next fiscal year.

TRIM (truth-in-millage) notices sent out to property owners in August reflected a rate of 3.1 mills, or $310 of every $100,000 taxable property value for the 2020-21 fiscal year. Through budget workshops, however, council agreed to go to a rolled-back millage rate of 3.015 mills. 

“Effectively, there’s no budget increase from the prior fiscal year,” Maria Bassett, acting village manager and finance director, told council members during its Sept. 10 budget hearing.

Total expenditures within the general fund are just over $14.8 million, which is down from $15.6 million in spending in the general fund per the adopted 2019-20 fiscal year budget. Around $6.8 million in spending within the tentative budget’s general fund is for public safety, with approximately $4.6 million budgeted for fire rescue and $2.2 million for law enforcement. 

Total revenues within the tentative budget’s general fund are around $15.7 million. That’s also down from projected revenues of just over $18.2 million in the adopted 2019-20 budget. Original sales tax revenue projections depicted a 50% loss from the prior fiscal year, but Bassett said the state altered that figure to a 25% loss. 

Taxable value in the village is just over $3.9 billion, compared to just over $3.7 billion last year.

If everything in the general fund budget is accurate, Bassett said the unassigned fund balance would be about $6.3 million, and that works out to be roughly 40% of budgeted expenditures. Between the coronavirus pandemic and future storm potentials, Bassett said council was comfortable with going to the rolled-back rate with more money going to the fund balance. 

“Going to rollback was reasonable and a compromise without going too far down and risking not having cash flow we could possibly need,” she said. “Considering we spent a minimum of $10 million in response to Irma, not that we necessarily want to get to $10 million in fund balance, it certainly puts us in a better position.”

Councilman Chris Sante said he always fought for a higher fund balance, from 25% to 35% minimum, when he first ran for council. 

“The perfect example was the hurricane we had. We were in a position to take care of everything, and like I say, I’d much rather do it now than be like the county and borrow money when a storm comes,” he said. “It puts us in a strong financial position.”

Bassett said there are certain capital projects budgeted, with the main activity being hazard mitigation projects thanks to funding of just over $1 million from FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program. As part of the grant, the village will need to provide a 25% match. As for other projects or major purchases, Bassett acknowledged that the village wouldn’t jump in to make purchases come the start of a new fiscal year on Oct. 1. 

“Any work that needs to be done on capital projects, pursuant to our purchasing ordinance, if anything is going to cost $25,000 or more, we have to come back to council for that guidance and that approval,” she said. “Just because something is budgeted, it doesn’t mean that we just get the green light to move ahead and start spending money.”

A final budget hearing is set for Monday, Sept. 21 at 5:30 p.m., when a final millage rate will be established for reflection on November 2020 tax bills. The hearing will be virtual. A regular meeting of council is set for Sept. 17 at 5:30 p.m. via Zoom.

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