The Fort Myers Beach Fire Control District passed the first step in its formal budgeting process for fiscal year 2013-14 by establishing a figure as the highest possible tax rate for the next fiscal year -one lower than local fire administration officials pushed for.
By a 4 to 1 count, the FMB Board of Fire Commissioners approved a tentative operating ad valorem rate at 2.55 mils (the current millage rate) to be in compliance with Florida Truth in Millage Law requirements. The commissioners then set a hearing to set the tentative millage rate at Town Hall on Sept. 5, at 5:05 p.m. A final budget hearing will be set then.
Fire administration proposed a 2.725 tentative millage rate before the lower rate was discussed and approved by the commissioners. The roll-back rate was reported to be 2.5137.
On Aug. 6, the fire board will hold a budget workshop at 10 a.m. to see if can lower the TRIM rate.
A budget expansion is not on their collective minds.
"Obviously, our evaluations have slightly increased this year," said Commissioner Carol Morris. "Even if we stayed with the same rate as last year, there would be a lot of taxpayers that would have higher taxes."
Morris referenced recent fire fighter salary cuts to help lower the overall fire control budget. She wanted the TRIM rate to be at least equal to last year's millage rate of 2.55.
"I would feel more comfortable presenting that to the taxpayers," she said.
Chairperson David Brower agreed with Morris' reaction and emphasized it with greater force.
"The pie has gotten bigger, and now we want a slice of a bigger pie. That's unfair. I can't agree to it," he said. "In all good conscience, when we have such low inflation, I just can't stomach much more than the roll back rate and, since it so close to last year's millage rate, I agree that last year's millage rate is the appropriate rate to go."
Beach Fire Finance Director Jane Thompson stated the difference between 2.55 mils and 2.5137 is approximately $120,000.
Brower referenced the proposed TRIM rate compares to the one set in 2002, when the district had a tax base of $2.2 billion.
"Now we have a tax base of $3.3 million. I think we exceed the growth and the consumer price index," he said.
Schindler also wanted to start at last year's roll back rate.
"I liked your analogy of the comsumption," he said to Brower. "I think that is one reason why the ambulance rate should go up and be commensurate with the County. "There is a way to increase a little bit of revenue without having to raise the millage rate. If we reduce expenses, we can somewhere accomplish what we need to do without putting the burden on the people that are slicing up the pie."
Chief Darren White responded that the cost of doing business has "definitely" gone up.
"It has to come from somewhere," he said.
Cardiac monitors approved for purchase
After holding a recent workshop to discuss the topic, the FMB Fire Commissioners approved to purchase 10 Physio Control's LifePak 15 cardiac monitors to replace older cardiac monitors through a change in heart monitor provider. The normal life cycle of the current monitors were coming to an end.
The Beach Fire District had allocated $170,240 in its equipment reserve fund over a four-year period specifically for cardiac monitors and added $94,500 to that total as part of a budget amendment in April.
The cost of the Physio Control heart monitors was reported to be $242,761.90, and that would leave Beach Fire with nearly $22,000 left in their equipment reserve for the product.