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Guest Commentary: Why incorporate the Villages of Lee Islands?

March 29, 2017
By ROGER WOOD (Special to The Eagle) , Pine Island Eagle

The governance of Matlacha and Pine Island by Lee County has been very good, but in the past it has been better. Recently, we have not been notified or consulted on some critical issues such as: the annexation of Matlacha, the Ceitus barrier removal, the Chiquita Lock removal and the Ms4 - Storm Water Management Program. In the future, any existing agreements and ordinances can be changed radically with each new election of county, state and city of Cape Coral officials. Right now, we have taxation without full representation. We are relying on elected officials outside our small area, who also have to answer to the larger electorate of Lee County and the state of Florida. If there is a conflict with these larger areas' interests, we do not have enough voter power to preserve the character of our coastal rural community.

The area of the municipality we are looking to incorporate is the same as the Greater Pine Island Fire District. It extends east all the way to Burnt Store Road and beyond to include the Cape Royal community. There would be a municipal council of the districts of St. James City, Pineland, Bokeelia, Matlacha and Cape Royal. The voting district boundaries would be set by equalized populations. These separate multiple communities are why I call the new Municipality, "Villages of the Lee Islands." Our plan is to have equal representation for all those districts. All voters would vote for two "at large" council members elected from anywhere in the municipal area. Voters would also elect a council member from the district where they live. This option gives all voters the selection of three council members out of the seven total.

The Initial Financial Feasibility Study summary is that there would be NO INCREASE IN PROPERTY TAXES to run our government of the Villages of the Lee Islands. The total tax revenues paid to our new municipality would stay the same as we pay now. All the present great services provided by Lee County would be continued; hence the Lee Islands name. We would reimburse Lee County the cost of those services. The difference between the cost of those services, and the total revenue received by the Villages of the Lee Islands would cover the cost of our small government. In other words, we now pay more tax revenue than the cost of services we receive, and we can fund our own government with that difference. There would still be money left over to create a rainy day "reserve" fund.

Government Lite is being proposed. A seven-member elected council, a manager and support staff, and some rented office space is all that is needed for our own self determination. Estimated costs for our local government are: $936,560 in 2019; $1,499,289 in 2020; $1,544,268 in 2021; $1,590,596 in 2022; and $1,638,313 in 2023.

Revenues vary in three separate prepared scenarios, but the bottom line, surplus or "reserves," are what is important. The reserves are the smallest in the first year, but accumulate over the five year projection. The three estimated surplus "reserves" are - Best Case Scenario: $937,398 in 2019, $1,700,970 in 2020, $2,492,418 in 2021, $3,312,578 in 2022 and $4,054,493 in 2023. Middle Case Scenario: $801,577 in 2019, $1,495,201 in 2020, $2,286,649 in 2021, $3,106,809 in 2022 and $3,848,742 in 2023. Worst Case Scenario: $279,127 in 2019, $703,869 in 2020, $1,495,137 in 2021, $2,315,297 in 2022 and $3,057,212 in 202. The Worst Case Scenario is probably too "skinny" to proceed with the incorporation.

An analysis is being performed now on the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats to the incorporation of the Villages of the Lee Islands. After that has been successfully completed, public information town hall meetings will be held in all the districts. Details will be discussed and modifications considered for broader approval. When those are completed, a poll will have to be completed of all the residents and registered voters in our municipal area as to the public's support of Incorporation.

The Greater Pine Island Civic Association is investigating incorporation because we feel we need to be part of the overall government, and not be controlled by outside sources. In the future, only our own self ruled municipality can maintain and enhance our coastal rural community.

Our goal is to increase property values and improve the safety of our residents.

The 24-page Initial Financial Feasibility Study that details these issues is available for viewing at GPICA.org. Just go to the website and click on "ISSUES," and then STUDY 24p, and then page through the study.

Roger Wood is the president of the Greater Pine Island Civic Association.

 
 

 

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