ISLAMORADA’S BUDGET SEES MORE REVENUE AND EXPENDITURE
Soaring property values, rising costs and vacancies were among the things Islamorada council members faced during their first budget workshop on August 8.
Inside the Founders Park Community Center, five council members listened intently to Finance Director Maria Bassett as she walked them line-by-line through a proposed budget for the 2022-23 fiscal year.
An increase in property values this year to $5 billion and an interim mileage rate of 3.00 set by dais projects to raise $14.8 million in property taxes. If the council chooses to keep the same mileage rate, it will essentially increase taxes due to an increase in the assessed value of the village. Last year the village council passed a budget with a rate of 3.00 mileage. With a taxable value in Islamorada totaling around $4.2 billion a year ago, the village raised $12.3 million in property taxes.
The village expects revenue of $20.7 million from property taxes, fines, park fees, license and permit fees, grants, and half-cent sales tax.
Bassett reminded the stage that 65% of the properties in Islamorada are not family properties, which means they are second or third residences, commercial properties or rentals. The remaining 35% of properties in the village are family properties, which means that the increase in the assessed value of the house is capped at 3% or the annual consumer price index, whichever is lower. .
Spending in the proposed budget for 2022-23 totals approximately $19.4 million. This is up from the previous budget, where expenditures totaled approximately $18.3 million.
A large part of the village budget is for staff. Cost of living adjustments rose nearly 6% earlier in the year. Also, the consumer price index is at 9.10% and it could go higher.
Village staff, including firefighters, would receive a 5% salary increase, in line with the current budget proposal. Bassett said Evie Englemeyer, director of human resources, has reached out to other Keys municipalities to find out what decisions they’ve made regarding staffing increases. Keys Energy is giving its employees a 4.5% raise. The Key Largo Wastewater District is considering a 10.1% raise for its employees.
The new village manager, Ted Yates, has just started his second week in office. He told the board that he is inquiring about departments, staffing levels and job responsibilities. Yates said he was fine with a 5% raise.
Advisor David Webb asked Yates if he plans to review the entry-level salary and offer recommendations for an adequate rate. Yates said he plans to review executive pay and entry-level pay.
“Entry level (salary) is probably more critical than anything because as we look at retaining individuals to do maintenance or salvage work or any of those hourly positions, we are going to start competing with organizations under construction. At Homestead, we mentioned Amazon. Amazon is going to be built up there. It will diminish our ability to get people to do basic things.
The town hall currently has vacancies for senior planner, senior inspector and building department inspector. The posts of village lawyer and legal assistant are also vacant. The law firm Weiss Serota provides legal advice to the village. The proposed budget shows that the company receives $520,000 for its services.
As for the increase in manpower, fire rescue saw the addition of five firefighters. These positions are funded by a three-year federal SAFER (Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency) grant. The only other personnel change is the addition of an audio-visual technician within the village’s IT and communications department.
Bassett said the village has worked to keep 25% of expenses in the unrestricted fund balance account for hurricane response. Bassett said that equates to about $4.3 million. According to current projections, an additional $6.9 million is in the balance of unrestricted funds that can be allocated for other purposes such as land acquisition.