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Guest Commentary: GPICA board answers common questions about incorporation

December 18, 2019
By HELEN FOX , Pine Island Eagle

In listening to the community about the pros and cons of incorporation, the Greater Pine Island Civic Association Board has heard some concerns about whether we can afford it, both as individual homeowners and as a self-governing community.

The most common question we hear is, "Will my taxes go up if we incorporate?" We believe this is unlikely. There will be no need for increased property taxes if the new Village Council is able to fund the community services we presently enjoy.

And since the Council would contract with Lee County to continue to provide these services at current levels, our costs for police, emergency management, public works, parks and recreation, planning and zoning, building inspection, development review, animal control and solid waste collection would not go up. The County would retain responsibility for roads, transportation planning and sewers. Water and fire services would continue to be provided by our own special districts, and schools would still be funded by the Lee County School District.

So not only would the government of the new, incorporated community be able to pay the bills, it may even have funds left over. Currently the residents of the Greater Pine Island Planning Community pay nearly $1 million more per year in property taxes to Lee County than we receive in services - and the county keeps our excess tax dollars. If we incorporate, those excess tax dollars would come directly to our community. Since the Village would no longer be a donor community to Lee County, the tax money saved would likely be enough to develop significant reserves.

On the other hand, if residents wish to have additional services not covered by current tax rates, property taxes could increase. Whether taxes go up, down, or stay the same will depend on the priorities of the new Village Council members elected by residents. But we should not forget that currently, our property tax rate depends on the priorities of the Lee County Board of Commissioners, who neither live nor work in our community, and may not always have our interests at heart.

Some residents wonder whether the salaries of the new government would be a drain on our community resources. This, too, is unlikely. One of the goals of incorporation is "government lite," with minimal elected officials and staff. Seven council members would be elected by the voters, one from each of five districts and two at large. These council members would each receive $6,000 per year. The mayor, chosen by the Council, would receive $9,000 per year. The salaries of the Village Manager, Village Clerk, and Village Attorney would be decided by the Village Council. Currently, competitive salaries for a City Manager are about $125,000, for a City Clerk/Treasurer $70,000, and for an Administrative Assistant $40,000, with benefits at 35%. This budget seems quite doable.

For further information see the Matlacha-Pine Island Incorporation Feasibility Study at www.gpica.org/feasibilitystudy2017

Please send your questions about incorporation to info@gpica.org

Helen Fox is a member of the GPICA Board.

 
 

 

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