There’s not really any question that Marco Island receives outstanding service from our first responders. It’s also clear that a matter of minutes, or even seconds, can often make the difference between life and death, whether at a crime scene, a catastrophic accident, instance of a heart attack, or a fire.
From time-to-time, however, residents have questioned whether taxpayers are paying a fair amount of tax money or too much for our first responders. So, let’s look at those facts.
A great starting point is comparison of Marco Island to some other nearby Southwest Florida communities. For example, with regard to ALL City of Marco Island services the 2011 millage rate for us taxpayers is 1.89. Compare that rate with the following rates for FIRE SERVICE ONLY:
- Isles of Capri Fire 1.8990
- East Naples Fire 1.57
- Goodland Fire MSTU 1.2760
- Ochopee Fire 4.0
- Collier County Fire 2.0
Marco Island total services are generally provided at a significantly lower rate than neighboring fire millage rates alone.
Let’s narrow the focus to a point-by-point match up of the City of Marco Island and the City of Naples:
Chief Thom Carr points out that the number of residents does not reflect the number of persons actually on the Island on any given day, including workers and visitors. It also does not account for the number of people here during season when it about triples. Actually the City of Marco Island has the lowest ratio of police officers to population (2 officers/1,000 population) than any other police department in Southwest Florida. That also produces the smallest budget to the ratio. The City of Marco Island Police Department 2010 budget was reduced by more than $100,000, and the 2011 budget was reduced by more than $200,000.
Some people are curious about the number of police vehicles in the service of the Marco Island Police Department. Currently there are 11 marked vehicles and five unmarked vehicles providing 24 hour-a-day coverage. This means high mileage and increasing maintenance costs since the city has decided not to acquire any new vehicles in 2011. The Department is now operating eight vehicles with more than 85,000 miles, and four others close behind. One has more than 100,000 miles and two have 96,000 miles.
Finally, and critically, what would happen if the City of Marco Island disbanded its Police Department and turned enforcement over to Collier County? In a few words, higher costs and lower service. Since the county (less efficient in manpower) would have an increased workload, the budget would increase and taxes would go up for Marco Island property owners. The sheriff, indeed several sheriffs, have publicly stated that Marco Island services would decrease.
Those facts speak for themselves.