Taxpaying citizens of Sanibel had their burden lifted somewhat through the actions of the City Council's structuring of the 2013 budget at Tuesday's final public hearing.
"What we did here tonight was pay down some debt, lowered the millage rate and put some money in reserves," Mayor Kevin Ruane summarized before declaring the meeting adjourned.
At the first public hearing on Sept. 8, council members instructed city staff to trim $162,440 out of the already lean budget in order that the millage rate could be lowered from the original set rate of 2.1398 to an even tighter 2.1000.
Sanibel's Center 4 Life building on Library Way will be getting up to $90,000 in maintenance and repairs as a result of actions taken by Sanibel City Council at Tuesday's final public hearing for the 2013 budget.
Staff did as directed and made their recommendations in eight items. One of those items concerned the Center 4 Life building on Library Way which council had been considering putting on a new roof with new air conditioning equipment and minor modifications to the interior space at a cost not to exceed $400,000.
Council remedied that situation by taking $90,000 needed for architectural fees to assess the building and put it in place to fund repairs and maintenance for 2013.
"It buys us some time to decide what we ultimately will do with the building," said Vice Mayor Mick Denham.
"It doesn't make sense to put on a roof that will last 30 years," said Ruane. "This way we can do minimum repairs to fix minor roof leaks, water seeping up through the floor and remodel the interior. We can roll it forward and consider other options to tear it down or relocate."
That move freed up the original budgeted $400,000 to be used in 2013. Of that amount, council was informed the city does not qualify for reimbursement of more than $90,000 in impact from Tropical Storm Isaac. Keeping six of the cuts recommended by staff, amounting to $199,500, the budget is flush with more funds that expected.
It allowed council to lower the millage rate to the desired 2.1000 as well as pay down nearly $500,000 of debt.
By rolling forward reserves from 2012 - $1.3 million in environmental initiatives and $4.5 million set aside to deal with disasters - the 2013 budget fund balance improves by $5.8 million. That puts the final 2013 budget figure at $43,629,348, up from the draft budget's prediction of $37,884,175. The adopted budget figure is $4 million lower than the 2012 adopted budget.
Denham and councilman Doug Congress specifically thanked the staff and fellow council members for their work throughout the budget process with other council members chiming in as well.
Besides reducing the millage rate, the city has kept salaries flat for the fifth consecutive year, having reduced staff from 142 in 2007 to 114 in 2013.
One budget item did increase for 2013. That being a 1 percent increase in sewer fees without a 3 percent reclaimed water rate index.
Residential curbside solid waste removal rates decreased by 3 percent while commercial rates go down by 1.6 percent. Commercial dumpster rates also decrease by 5.8 percent.
Building department fees also have been reduced by 25 percent. Variance application fees were reduced by 30 percent and the remodel with no increase in living area fee decreased by 50 percent.