Joseph Cranney, firstname.lastname@example.org; 239-213-60358:30 p.m. EDT September 21, 2016
The Naples City Council on Wednesday unanimously passed its $142 million fiscal 2017 budget that council members said should please residents with its slightly lower tax rates and major funding commitments for new city facilities.
“We got a firehouse. We got a park,” Mayor Bill Barnett said about the nearly $630,000 budgeted for the design of a new fire station and the $6.5 million committed for Baker Park. “It feels terrific. I’m psyched.”
Barnett, who has sat on the council for much of the past 25 years, has described a Naples public park that connects to the Gordon River Greenway as one of the city’s long-held dreams.
The council during Wednesday night’s brief budget hearing finalized a $6.5 million transfer from the city’s rainy-day fund to give the $16 million Baker Park the money the city says it needs to make the dream a reality.
The park, which is tentatively scheduled to begin construction at the end of next year, faced a funding shortfall after some private donors pulled their commitments amid the park’s shifting plans.
“I think park donors should be extremely pleased that they’re going to see it come to fruition,” Barnett said. “I think it will bring a degree of optimism to the whole community, but certainly to the donors.”
The $6.5 million in Baker Park transfers is part of the budget’s $14 million increase in capital expenses. The capital budget also includes $5 million for a rebuild of the city dock.
The council adopted a slightly lower millage rate at 1.15 mills, which will reduce property tax payments estimated on statements sent to city residents that were based on this year’s rate of 1.18 mills.
But property taxes could still go up year-over-year for property owners who saw large increases in the value of their home, but not as much with the lower rate.
“There are parts of this budget that I do not necessarily agree with, but overall, to achieve a mill levy reduction, I voted for it,” said Councilman Doug Finlay, who has proposed reducing the city’s millage rate during budget talks the past several years to compensate for the city’s steady increase in taxable value.
Taxable value is estimated at $20.2 billion, a 10 percent increase from the current year.
The budget includes $8.7 million in new spending. For the low-income River Park neighborhood, city redevelopment money was budgeted, for the first time in a decade, at $150,000.
About $4.8 million in debt payments are budgeted for obligations toward bonds from 2012 and 2013 that helped cover water service and public utilities costs.
The budget contributes about $5.5 million toward the city’s $42.5 million police pension plan, $44.9 million fire pension plan and $49.8 million pension plan for general employees.
The council ultimately declined to budget any extra money — as much as $500,000 by one suggestion — to help pay off a $48 million combined debt for the three pension plans.