Based on input from the Finance Department, Sanibel will spend $38 million in 2013 or about $5,700 per permanent resident. The comparable figure in Fort Myers is $1,330. Even using the oft quoted seasonal population of 20,000, Sanibel's per capita spending is $1,900 or 43 percent greater than Fort Myers, a much larger city.
Sanibel also has $42 million in total debt. Excluding the sewer system, the largest debt is $7.5 mlllion for the new Rec Center. The former Rec Center was dilapidated, but could have been replaced at a far lower cost. The new center will cost $15 million in bond principal and interest, a debt that will not be fully repaid until 2036. With millions in reserves, Council should retire this debt as soon as possible, which would lower millage rates.
Another example of savings is the $700,000 spent since 2005 to clean debris from the Sanibel River. Most of this money was earmarked to former Councilman Bird Westall under a no bid contract, a regrettable ethical lapse by Council. Should debris removal be necessary, this task should be assigned to the Public Works Department.
Under consideration is a 1 percent increase in sewer rates. If necessary, this can easily be accomplished by cutting the budget elsewhere. Total expenditures of $38 million by a small community like Sanibel is extraordinary. The private sector has tightened its belt and I urge the CIty to do the same.