Updated Oct. 2, 2023, 3:00 p.m.
In this post: Amending the Conservation Collier ordinance; county’s one-cent sales surtax to end; support for the arts to tighten; new career and technical training center funded; and more.
The Board of County Commissioners
Amending the Conservation Collier Ordinance
On Oct. 10, Collier County Attorney Jeff Klatzkow plans to propose amendments to the 2002 ordinance that implemented the county’s Conservation Collier Land Acquisition Program.
The objectives of Conservation Collier, according to the ordinance, are “to acquire, preserve, restore, and maintain vital and significant threatened natural lands, forest, upland, and wetland communities located in Collier County, for the benefit of present and future generations.”
The proposed amendments would give commissioners the authority to transfer money out of the “separate and segregated” Conservation Collier trust funds for other purposes “if found to be in the best interest of the public by majority vote of the Board of County Commissioners.” Read the proposed amendments here.
The move appears to have been made necessary by the board’s decision 10 days ago to use some Conservation Collier trust funds to close a budget gap.
On Sep. 21, the Board of County Commissioners (BCC) adopted a $615.6 million budget and the rolled-back ad valorem tax rate. The vote was 4 to 1, with Commissioner Burt Saunders in the minority.
The rolled-back rate would not have raised enough money to fund the budget, so commissioners decided to fund the $62 million shortfall by raiding the Conservation Collier trust funds.
Within a few days after the board vote, it appears to have come to someone’s attention that using the Conservation Collier funds to pay for county operations may have violated the ordinance that specified the authorized uses of the funds.
When I asked Board Chair LoCastro about it, he suggested I talk to County Attorney Jeff Klatzkow about my concern.
In response to my email, Klatzkow emailed me back on Sep. 27. “I am bringing the attached proposed ordinance to the Board for their next meeting (October 10th),” he wrote.
Assuming the amended ordinance does make it to the agenda as Klatzkow said he intended, the agenda will be posted here closer to the meeting date.
Read more at WGCU Public Media.
One-Cent Sales Surtax to End
The one-cent sales surtax Collier County has been charging since 2019 will end on Dec. 31, 2023.
That’s because the tax was set to automatically end on the earlier of Dec. 31, 2025, or the year in which aggregate proceeds of $490 million were raised. Learn more at the Collier One-Cent Sales Tax website.
Through May of this year, more than $490 million was collected, so the tax will sunset two years earlier. This tax was designated to fund specific, voter-approved priorities, many of which are still underway.
“Any plan to ask voters to approve another surtax would only come after consulting with our community partners and municipalities,” said Collier County Communications Manager Deborah Curry. “At this point, we have not had any formal discussions on a new surtax initiative.”
Support for the Arts to Tighten
Nonprofit and other private arts and cultural organizations could find it more difficult next year to get county funding that has traditionally been available to them to cover costs that promote tourism. Those funds came from the county’s 5% tourist tax (aka bed tax) that is collected on overnight hotel stays.
At the Sep. 26 BCC meeting, Commissioner Hall questioned the need and purpose for the grants, and whether the money could be better spent on public assets and projects.
After discussion, commissioners approved the recommended FY 2024 grants totaling nearly $825,000 to 15 local organizations but warned the purse strings could be tightened in 2025.
Read more at Naples Daily News (paywall).
New County Water Park
A new county water park will open Monday, Oct. 2. The 8,686 square-foot complex, located inside the Big Corkscrew Island Regional Park, has waterslides, a family pool, and a competition pool with diving boards.
In 2017, when the project was first approved, it was expected to cost $60 million, a figure that grew to nearly $80 million over time. Forty million dollars from the Collier County one-cent sales surtax helped fund the project.
A second phase of the park project will include a fitness center/gymnasium, a large lake with a kayak/canoe launch, four baseball fields, walking paths, and a concession pavilion. Construction of the second phase is expected to start later this year.
New Career and Technical Training Center
Collier County Public Schools (CCPS) and local businesses identified the need for a Career and Technical Training Center (CTTC) to expand their advanced manufacturing and other educational programs.
Collier County and CCPS began to work together on a new facility to house the programs in 2022.
Originally, $15 million of the county’s one-cent sales surtax funding was made available for this project. However, a building that meets the needs of the new center was subsequently donated to the County. This lowered the required surtax funding significantly.
On Sep. 12, commissioners unanimously approved disbursing $8 million of funds from the sales surtax reserves to expand CCPS’s advanced manufacturing and other educational programs. The plan is to have this facility up and running in September 2024.
New Wastewater Treatment Structure
The Collier County Public Utilities Wastewater Division operates and maintains two regional water reclamation facilities with a total treatment capacity of 40.1 million gallons per day.
In July, the BCC awarded a $55.7 million contract to replace the 30-year-old wastewater pretreatment structure at the North County Water Reclamation Facility to Poole & Kent Company of Florida. The project is expected to be completed in 2026.
Funding for the project in the amount of $27 million is available in the county’s Wastewater User Fee Capital fund. To close the funding gap, commissioners also approved a commercial paper loan of nearly $29 million.
Learn more about this project here.
Moving Forward: the Town of Big Cypress
On its own, Big Cypress may have up to 4,432 single-family and multifamily homes, including 882 affordable housing units.
Collier County Strategic Plan
In March, the board updated the Collier County Strategic Plan. The Vision and Mission Statements were unchanged. However, the county’s core values, strategic focus areas, and strategic objectives were revised. Commissioners also adopted 23 new board priorities and 13 priorities for the county manager.
In doing so, the board reset its direction for the county. (Of the current board, only Saunders and McDaniel participated in the prior strategic plan update in 2017.)
“We now have a specific target list in each area ensuring we have specific and new county needs included in our budget [and] that we are focused on continued or improved maintenance,” wrote Commissioner LoCastro in his constituent newsletter. “And we have a timeline to aggressively address the multitudes of areas across every community that absorbs our $2+ billion county budget.”
Considering the commissioners’ decision on Sep. 21 to fill the county’s budget shortfall with monies in the Conservation Collier trust funds, it should be noted that there is no mention of land conservation in the county’s 2023 strategic plan.
The Commissioners also added a new performance management component to the strategic plan framework. Board and county manager priorities will be continuously measured by county staff, and quarterly reports will be presented to the board and published on the county website.
Learn more about Collier County’s 2023 strategic plan here.
2024 Legislative Priorities
The county’s state and federal contract lobbyists identify and monitor legislative trends, issues, administrative activity, and funding opportunities throughout the year. After review and approval by the BCC, a set of legislative and administrative priorities guide the county’s advocacy efforts in Tallahassee and Washington, D.C.
The county’s 2024 legislative and administrative priorities are in these areas:
- Affordable Housing
- County Funding Streams
- FEMA Remapping
- Hurricane Preparedness & Recovery
- Hurricane Relief Reimbursement
- Long-Term, Transparent National Food Insurance Program (NFIP) Reauthorization
- Noise Nuisance Mitigation
- Property Insurance Market Stabilization
- Resilience/Coastal Protection
- Septic-to-Sewer Grant Program Flexibility
- Water Quality and Quantity Management
In addition, the county will submit state appropriation requests for:
- State Veterans’ Nursing Home: Supplemental Funding-Outpatient Services
- EMS/Fire Station #74
- West Goodlette Frank Stormwater Improvements
- Naples Park Public Utilities Renewal Project- 103rd & 104th Avenues
- Palm River Public Utility Renewal Project – Areas 3, 5 & 6
- Golden Gate Water Reclamation Facility
All Collier County residents are represented by five “constitutional officers”:
Supervisor of Elections Melissa Blazier, Clerk of the Circuit Court Crystal Kinzel, Sheriff Kevin Rambosk, Property Appraiser Abe Skinner, and Tax Collector Rob Stoneburner.
The Collier County Sheriff’s Office is launching a $300,000 safety program to prevent fentanyl overdoses in the community. The Laced & Lethal campaign has four pillars to help law enforcement prepare for and prevent overdoses: schools, community, enforcement, and training.
More than 100 people were arrested and large quantities of fentanyl and other dangerous, illicit drugs were seized during a four-month investigation — Operation Summer Blaze, Collier County Sheriff Kevin Rambosk announced recently.
Supervisor of Elections
Melissa Blazier was appointed Collier County Supervisor of Elections by Gov. Ron DeSantis in May. Blazier will complete the term of long-time Supervisor Jennifer Edwards, who retired in April.
Blazier, who is running for election to the post next year, has worked at the elections office since 2006. Prior to this appointment, she served as Edwards’ Chief Deputy Supervisor of Elections.
Kevin Turner was named Chief Deputy, filling Blazier’s former position. He has been employed by the elections office since 2006.
Clerk & Comptroller
In 2022, 58,800 Collier County residents received a summons to provide service as potential members of the jury.
The Office of Collier County Clerk Crystal Kinzel implemented a new jury management system for the Collier County Courthouse in April.
The high-tech management system streamlines the jury selection process saves time for potential jurors in responding to a summons and automates the overall process for the convenience of jurors, judges, and attorneys.
Read more here.
City of Naples
DID YOU KNOW?
Only about 5 percent of Collier County residents live in the City of Naples, according to the U.S. Census.
FY 2023-24 Budget, Tax Rate
On Sep. 20, the Naples City Council approved a 2023-24 budget of $197 million and an ad valorem tax rate of 1.17 mills. The 0.02 mill increase represents $20 per million dollars of property value.
The vote to approve the budget was 6 to 1, with Councilman Ted Blankenship opposed.
The vote to approve the millage rate was 5 to 2, with Blankenship and Hutchison opposed.
Typically, the city holds two annual fireworks celebrations, one on Independence Day and the other on New Year’s Eve. However, as the city prepares to celebrate its centennial anniversary on Dec. 1, council members unanimously agreed to add an additional fireworks event on Dec. 2 to commemorate the milestone.
Read more at Gulfshore Business.
Thanks again for wanting to be a more informed Collier voter!