It appears Marco Islanders may be benefiting from a better than anticipated economic climate during 2020. That positive news is derived from the sales tax revenues over the last twelve months which made up the 2019-2020 fiscal year. Latest figures show that the initially anticipated $3.5 million in revenue actually came in at $3.9 million, $400,000 above what was expected.
Many anticipated that the impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic would adversely impact the revenues created by the county sales tax. That tax was temporarily raised by 1% as the result of a referendum vote taken during the November 2018 election cycle. It was the first time in five attempts that Collier residents voted to increase the sales tax levy on themselves.
As a result of the referendum, the monies raised are to be split between the county and the cities within Collier County. Total income realized from the plan will be capped at $490 million, after which the sales tax rate would be returned to 6% if the $490 million is reached before the sunsetting of the increase on December 31, 2025. Of that total, the county would receive $420 million and the cities would receive the additional $70 million. Those dollars must be used for transportation, facilities, capital replacement projects and community priorities. The tax increase did not apply to food or medicine, and only the first $5000 of a major purchase is taxed as part of the plan. A potential windfall of $24,546,956 over the seven years of the 1% surcharge was what had been estimated.
The projects within the city initially targeted to benefit from those revenues include the following:
- Veterans Community Park Improvements: $7,000,000
- Replacement of Fire Station 50: $8,000,000
- Extra Street Paving: $2,200,000
- Storm Water Management: $4,950,000
- Parking Improvements: $2,200,000
Council has been under mounting pressure to reevaluate their stance on sidewalk repairs. Presently, new homes being built are required to have sidewalks installed in front of those homes. A homeowner then is required to maintain and replace those public pathways if damaged. Sidewalks being installed as part of the ongoing sidewalk improvement program are grant funded. If those pathways are damaged, the city becomes responsible for perpetual care.
It may be possible to use the recent windfall of $400,000 for a pilot program to fund repairs and replacement of sidewalks to better evaluate the true impact to the city budget, as many are questioning the financial impact numbers being utilized by Tim Pinter, the City Director of Public Works.
This issue is certain to be hotly debated as part of the upcoming City Budget planning later this spring, if not sooner.