Another of the independent taxing authorities on Estero Island has discussed and approved its maximum budgeted tax rate for fiscal year 2013-14. This one is looking to the future with a proposed budgeted solar energy project that may benefit taxpayers down the road in utility cost savings.
By an unanimous decision last week, the Fort Myers Beach Public Library Board of Directors set an operating ad valorem rate at 0.4599 mils to be in compliance with Florida Truth in Millage Law requirements. Its current millage rate is 0.4999 mils.
Before the TRIM rate was set, Beach Library Director Dr. Leroy Hommerding stated the Lee County Library System's rate proposal then reviewed three possible budget scenarios. He said the County library board is looking into raising its millage to 0.5450 or even possibly 0.6578 if a consideration to build a new library in Bonita Springs and North Fort Myers is agreed upon.
Beach Library officials are looking to budget money to add solar panels to covered walkways and parking areas, much like the Charlotte County elementary school that is pictured.
"Just to keep things in an operating sense, (Lee County Library System) has to collect 0.5450 next year. If they don't, they will have to reduce hours and services," said Hommerding. "If the County system does either of those two, you can bet that will impact our library. We already are up 50 percent in usage since January, and there are more people that are becoming aware of us not only inside our district but outside as well."
The three budget scenarios for Beach Library officials were the agreed upon 0.4599 mils, a 16 percent increase from the County proposed rate to balance its budget for operational and maintenance costs only; 0.4499 mils, a reported 8.69 percent reduction from the 0.4927 roll-back rate; and 0.4299 mils, which covers just the basics costs.
"The millage at 0.4499 would give us an additional $8,000 toward e-books and $50,000 that we could put towards the project 'Total Solar' that would help us get to the point where we can produce 100 percent of the electricity that we are using," said Hommerding. "We would basically have covered walkways and parking areas throughout the library property with solar panels that are generating electricity."
'Total Solar' is a reference to becoming energy independent and possibly generating more energy than needed. That excess energy would be used in a public grid, and Florida Power & Light would subtract the cost from what is used each month. Hommerding referenced his solar power usage at his home as an example.
"What we are putting toward 'Total Solar' we actually are saving in future years," he said. "That is why we developed this building to be highly energy efficient," he said. "At my house, in seven years, I am going to begin to recover costs."
At the Beach Library, Hommerding estimates payback would be less than 12 years away if grants are available for the project or a 12-year estimation if not. If the board approves the project, implementation could begin in 2015.
"I am 100 percent behind the solar project," said Beach Library board secretary Mark LaFave.
During the treasurer's report, Miffie Greer reported income and expenditure numbers to date. She told her fellow board members that actual income has been $1,362,746, a 92-percent mark of projected income for the year with three months left in the fiscal year.
"I think we can safely say that we will meet our income," she said. "It surprised me that it was over $256,000 more than what was projected at this time."
On the expenditure front, it was reported Beach Library officials budgeted $1,474,745 and the actual expenditures came in at $1,790,826.
"We are 1.7 percent under our budget expenditure after nine months," she said.
Regarding donations to the Beach Library, a sum of $1,457.28 has been donated to the library fund since last month's board meeting.
Towing signs allowed/ more on way
Dr. Hommerding stated that the towing signage was called 'incidental signage' by Town Community Development Director Walter Fluegel and does not fall within limitations of the Town's sign ordinance. He has ordered two more signs for a total of four to be used on the library property to deter those who desire to use the parking lot for beach parking.
"One will be put inside the garage's parking area, one each at both entrances and then one somewhere on the property per se," he said. "I would rather people see the signs. We really do not want to tow anyone."
Two companies have supplied Beach Library officials proposals for auditing services: Ashley & Brown and Tuscan. The Board of Directors will review the documents and make a decision at the September board meeting.
ALA Convention report
Dr. Hommerding, who recently returned from an annual American Library Association convention in Chicago, gave a report about his trip.
The four-day convention hosted 26,000 librarians and had many presentations, such as the Pew Research Internet Project. It was found that teenagers are the fastest-growing group to use the library for a second year in a row, that 61 percent of all adults are involved in social networking with each age group showing an increase in that category, and that 73 percent of library users are there to take out a book.
The convention also featured a silent auction with proceeds going to scholarships to send children to library school.