Local news in August was again dominated by our elected officials’ efforts to plan for growth, prop up aging infrastructure, and address the need for affordable housing and satisfy the desire to set aside conservation lands.
This month, decisions will be made when the County, City and School Board finalize their FY 2017–18 budgets. Let your voice be heard before they do. This Month in Review identifies some of the issues they will address. See the end of this post for budget hearing meeting dates and how to contact your representatives.
Also in August, Collier County Public Schools reopened after the summer break, and two candidates filed to run for School Board from District 3.
The stories, editorials and commentaries noted below link to the Naples Daily News unless otherwise noted.
Top stories: Collier County
- ’Cost burden’ drives larger demand for affordable housing. 40 percent of all Collier County households were spending more than 30 percent of their income on housing. A stakeholders group will present recommendations on how to spur more affordable housing development to county commissioners in September.
- New theater, affordable housing could be slated for Bayshore Drive. County Commissioners are trying to find someone to build a theater or performing arts center on the County’s 17-acre site, along with storefronts and rent-controlled apartments or affordable condominiums. They are expected to make a go/no-go decision in November.
- Collier County commissioners wary of creating new stormwater utility tax. In September, county engineers and stormwater managers will present a rate study and potential timeline to create the new utility to help the county replace storm pipes that date to the 1950s and keep roads and neighborhoods from flooding.
- Scofield family offers part of pioneer Half Circle L Ranch to Conservation Collier. The most environmentally sensitive 3,300 acres of the Collier County side of the ranch, east of Immokalee, is up for review by the Conservation Collier program. Potentially worth more than $10 million, it would be the largest Conservation Collier purchase to date.
- Collier County’s two largest fire districts to discuss possible merger. If approved, the Greater Naples Fire Rescue District and the North Collier Fire Control and Rescue District would begin studying the costs and benefits, whether the new district would operate under one tax rate, and eventually, when to ask voters in a referendum to push the merger forward.
- County to change beach shuttle hours and route after low use during its first season. A three-year state grant covered half the $31,500 operating cost; the county paid the rest with bed tax dollars.
- Collier mosquito fighters ramp up for new battle as rainy season kicks in. Acres of Collier County have been turned into prime habitat for freshwater mosquitoes. They are a different menace than the saltmarsh mosquito that afflicted Collier earlier this summer.
- Collier sheriff’s office seeks $7.5 million more for personnel. Property taxes fund the majority of the sheriff’s office’s budget. A final vote on the budget is scheduled for September.
- Collier animal shelter wants air conditioning. The Domestic Animal Services department has asked commissioners for up to $500,000 for air conditioning for the dogs in its care, after receiving complaints and requests from volunteers who work in the kennels.
Top editorials and commentaries: Collier County
- Editorial: Conservation Collier important to support. Even if voters approve it in fall 2018, five years will have passed in collections of the Conservation Collier tax that’s been overwhelmingly supported by voters twice in the past.
- Commentary: Weigh the benefits of reinstating Conservation Collier. We can’t stop development but we can set aside land so we aren’t surrounded by concrete, high-rises, roads, and huge, dense new towns. Bonnie Michaels, Environmental Affairs Committee member – Collier County League of Women Voters
- Editorial: Put inmates where they belong, which might not be jail. From bills introduced during the 2017 session and statements made, we believe our legislative delegation members were listening. But either they don’t hold enough sway in Tallahassee or other members of the Florida Legislature aren’t listening.
- Editorial: Questioning why impact fees are being questioned. We applaud County Commissioner Bill McDaniel for exploring alternatives, but are withholding judgment until we see if his idea requires additional collection staff, appreciably reduces the cost of new homes and can be applied beyond the Immokalee pilot area.
- Commentary: Time to swallow a tax increase? A tax increase is always a tough call, particularly with the federal government sucking more and more money out of our pockets. But the time might be right to consider a limited, directed and temporary tax hike in Collier County. Dave Trecker, The Resident’s Corner
Top stories and editorials: City of Naples
- Naples proposed budget maintains 1.15 mill property tax rate. But with increased property values, taxes could go up as much as 10 percent on non-homesteaded properties.
- Work begins at Baker Park on bridge after years of delays and amid changes to the park plans. The park’s final design is expected to be presented to the council in the fall.
- Vice Mayor Linda Penniman calls for audit of anti-blight fund amid concerns the City misused its Community Redevelopment Agency funds by spending millions in the city’s “swanky” commercial district.
- Facing pushback from residents, Naples leaders pause, ask for new downtown garage contract. City Council rejected a $6 million contract, narrowly advanced a proposal to offer $4.6 million, and committed to delay another vote on the garage until the spring to allow more time for public input.
- Commentary: Case not made for new Naples parking garage. John Lehmann and Quenby Tyler – Naples Garage Coalition
Top stories: Collier County Public Schools
- Collier’s Cambridge exam pass rate higher than national average. Seventy-five percent of the 2,500 participating Collier high school students passed, compared to 72 percent for Florida and 71 percent for the U.S. Collier high schools began offering Cambridge Programs in 2011.
- Collier debuts elementary Cambridge Programs. On the first day of school, some students already had homework due. Each grade level had its own book for students to read over the summer, and identify traits within a character in the book which fit the program’s learner attributes. Naples Herald
- School districts will determine teachers eligible for bonus program. It will be up to each of the state’s 67 districts to determine which local teachers are eligible for the “Best and Brightest” bonus program revamped as part of the massive HB 7069 that took effect this summer. Tampa Bay Times
Top editorials and commentaries: Collier County Public Schools
- Editorial: A year tough to top for Collier schools. Last year, the district reclaimed its A grade from the state with many schools improving their standing. The academic performance of 2016–17 creates a high bar for the incoming year’s student body and district staff to surpass. There is room to improve, and there are challenges to be met.
- Commentary: Ready for another year of Collier public schools success. Kamela Patton, Superintendent – Collier County Public Schools
- Editorial: School Board reached reasonable compromise in initially adopting a tax rate for next budget year that invests in the future while giving a break to businesses and others who don’t benefit from a homestead exemption. Beyond just the dollars and sense in the decision was an important message that compromise is possible for this Board.
- Collier School Board
- Retired educator Kathy Ryan to run for Collier County School Board from District 3 for fourth time. Ryan said she is running for the school board again because she has a deep interest in the position and believes she is qualified for the job.
- Former Naples Park Elementary teacher and mother of four Jen Mitchell filed for candidacy for District 3. Mitchell praises CCPS for its “gold standard” rating by accreditation agency AdvancED and its rise in rankings in the state.
- Current District 3 Board member Erika Donalds, a strong supporter of school choice, has not said whether she will run for re-election.
- 2018 Naples City Council
- Vice Mayor Linda Penniman filed to run for reelection, according to the Naples City Clerk website, joining first-time candidates James Moon, Mitchell Norgart and Wynn Phillips.
Upcoming budget hearings
- Collier County Board of County Commissioners – September 7 and 21. Materials here.
- Naples City Council – September 6 and 20. Agenda here.
- Collier County School Board – September 12. Agenda here.
Take a few minutes and share your thoughts with your representatives before they decide how to spend your tax dollars. Reach your County Commissioners here, Naples City Council members here, and Collier School Board members here.
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