September 5, 2018

ISLAMORADA — Village Council members head into the first of two formal budget hearings at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 5, with the currently proposed fiscal year 2018-19 tax rate needing a unanimous vote.

Council members tentatively have backed a rate of 3.2 mills — $320 for every $100,000 of taxable property value.

For a home assessed at $500,000 after exemptions, the municipal tax bill would $1,600, or $200 more than the $1,400 assessed in the current fiscal year with its 2.8-mill rate.

The tax rate at the first hearing, at the Founders Park Community Center, can be reduced but it cannot be increased.

Under state law for calculating levies for property taxes, all five council members would be required to endorse the 3.2 mills. A lower rate of 3.0 mills could be passed with a four-fifths vote.

Council members said in early August budget workshops that delays in receiving Hurricane Irma recovery costs from the federal government are largely responsible for village’s higher tax rate. Few residents protested the suggested tax rate then.

A second and final hearing on the budget and tax rate is 5:30 p.m. Sept. 12 at Founders Park.

Regular meeting

Council members, returning to the community center for a 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 6, regular meeting, will consider a $22,000 landscaping plan in the median near the new Publix on Upper Matecumbe Key.

Additional landscaping in the buffer zone between U.S. 1 and the Old Highway will help reduce noise and light generated by the new Publix market at mile marker 83.3, says a report from Public Works Director Andrew Engelmeyer.

The plan, endorsed with some revisions by Islamorada’s Landscape Advisory Committee on Aug. 14, also is intended to help improve aesthetics and discourage parking in the median.

“The plan includes only low-maintenance native plants and trees selected from the Islamorada Landscape Manual,” the report notes. Plants proposed include several types of palms, lignumvitae, silver buttonwood and Jamaican capers.

Other issues at Islamorada’s Sept. 6 meeting:

• A formal resolution setting the new residential garbage rates at $425.80 for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1.

The rate is $17.45 higher this year due to increased dumping fees charged by mainland landfills, staff said.

In a related request from Islamorada’s Finance Department, staff suggests dropping a requirement that property owners be notified by first-class mail of future price increases in waste-removal costs.

As long as the residence collection rate stays below a $487 ceiling, the village could save money on mailing costs, the proposal says. Garbage costs are listed on the annual tax bill.

• Spending $1.65 million of Islamorada’s share of Florida Keys Stewardship Act money will result in $6.6 million worth of canal debris removal, Finance Director Maria Bassett reports.

The money received from the state will serve as a required a 25 percent match for a federal Natural Resources Conservation Service Grant.

• An estate that owns a vacant lot at mile marker 75.6 on Lower Matecumbe Key will ask for a break on a code violation case.

Code inspectors found the lot had “overgrown vegetation and debris on the property.” When the out-of-state owners missed a deadline to clean the lot and did not appear for a code hearing, daily fines built up to reach $27,000.

That got the attention of the owners, who then brought the lot brought into compliance. A hearing magistrate agreed to reduce the fines to $6,750. Now the owners have asked the council for an unspecified additional reduction.

• Capt. David Dipre of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is scheduled to make a presentation on American crocodiles, a protected species native to the Florida Keys.

• “Recycling Properly in Islamorada” will be outlined by Assistant Village Manager Mary Swaney.

kwadlow@keysnews.com