JOSEPH CRANNEY JOEY.CRANNEY@NAPLESNEWS.COM; 239-213-6035
The Naples City Council on Monday will begin discussing a $148 million budget that would include nearly $6 million in new spending and an updated price tag for Baker Park.
Construction costs for the 15-acre park on the Gordon River are now estimated at $14.4 million, in addition to the $4.4 million cost to build a pedestrian bridge connecting the park to the Gordon River Greenway. The city also is paying Baker Park’s roughly $1.5 million in design and engineering costs, Finance Director Ann Marie Ricardi said.
Add the previous $3 million land purchase, and Baker Park’s costs rise above $23 million. It’s likely the most expensive public project in Naples history.
Naples councilors said they’re comfortable with that. “For any project like Baker Park, it’d be nice to say the (price) is locked in, it’s never going to change,” Mayor Bill Barnett said. “Things change. When I think about Baker Park, I try to look out for future generations for this city and county for people who are going to use it.”
Barnett, along with Vice Mayor Linda Penniman and Councilman Sam Saad, voted with the majority of the council in June 2014 to cap taxpayers’ spending on the park at $7.5 million.
But Naples taxpayers could end up paying millions more.
The council’s pay-as-you-go approach to the park has already committed $8.5 million — $3 million to buy land and a $5.5 million transfer from the general fund — plus $2.5 million in revenue from utility taxes.
To offset some of those costs, Councilman Doug Finlay is proposing the city transfer more tax-increment revenue to Baker Park from the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency. The council has already approved a $1 million CRA transfer for the park.
“You could tap some extra money from the CRA for the park,” Finlay said. “I think the park will serve the CRA area.”
The proposed 2017-18 budget would maintain the city’s property tax rate at 1.15 mills. But because of increased property values, taxes could go up as much as 10 percent on nonhomesteaded properties.
Overall, taxable values are estimated at $21.8 billion — about 8 percent more than the current year’s final taxable value of $20.2 billion.
The budget includes a 3 percent increase in compensation for employees, from $27.3 million in the current year to $28.1 million. Retirement contributions to city’s three pension plans for police officers, firefighters and general employees are projected to increase slightly, from $5.4 million to $5.7 million.
The budget’s $43 million in capital spending includes an increased cost of Baker Park’s construction by $2 million, the same amount the city collected from a private donation in May.
When the family of the late Naples philanthropist Dorothy Blair pledged the money, the city committed to pumping it back into the park for more amenities rather than use it to offset costs, City Manager Bill Moss said.
Earlier this year the council agreed to add $1.7 million to the $2.7 million cost of constructing Baker Park’s pedestrian bridge after work estimates came back higher than anticipated.
Dana Souza, the city’s parks director, said he is working with contractor Manhattan Construction to prevent cost overruns in construction, which is expected to begin next year.
Manhattan, which is owned by U.S. Rep. Francis Rooney, will offer the council a guaranteed maximum construction price in December, Souza said.
“For any project like Baker Park, it’d be nice to say the (cost) is locked in, it’s never going to change.
Things change. When I think about Baker Park, I try to look out for future generations for this city and county for people who are going to use it.”
MAYOR BILL BARNETT