ITS NOW OR NEVER
Port Charlotte is in better financial shape today than we have enjoyed in decades. The 1% sales tax is funding the widening of Edgewater, the widening and improvement of Olean, public works estimates that 80% of the critical needs roads have been repaved, and Elcam and Midway have seen major improvements. These improvements have been needed for years but we have found ourselves at the low end in assessing priorities of spending.
As a newly formed city we would NOT have to take over:
We have a smaller, more dense geographical area than most of the county, and, as such, we should find that it is less expensive to supply municipal services ourselves through contractual arrangements with private companies. Initially we would need to contract all services to the county but could start to bring them under our control after a couple of years.
Additionally, we would "lose" the 11 MSBUs that currently apply to the proposed bounded area of the new city. Municipal Service Business Units (MSBUs) are special assessments that are fee based with no relation to property valuations. They are essentially a tax but are not reflected in the millage rate of the county, Because Charlotte County is so large in land mass and small in population, MSBUs are used for all road maintenance and lighting costs. Not one penny of Ad Valorem or property tax is used. Additionally the county charges these MSBUs back for all time spent administering these funds.
FIRE AND SAFETY (sheriff's dept, fire and EMS - we could allow the existing MSTUs and MSBUs to remain in place at no additional expense)
ROADS THAT CROSS CITY BOUNDARY LINES
SEWER AND WATER ( these are county owned and would remain the responsibility of the county)
EXISTING CRAs SUCH AS PARKSIDE
We could choose to maintain a similar taxation structure or provide an entirely different type of taxation that uses Ad Valorem taxes to help defray the cost of roads, road maintenance, and lighting. It is expected that the current Greater Charlotte Harbor MSBU fund would revert to Port Charlotte. The fund is projected to enjoy revenues of $9M in 2014/2015 per year and has a fund balance of $21M from the preliminary budget report.
The cost of these services will be directly related to taxation. The relationship between the operational budget and taxation would be affected by the actual flow of funds to Port Charlotte from revenue sharing. These funds are allocated based on the percent of population a city represents in terms of countywide population. Port Charlotte doesn't exist as far as the State or the County is concerned because we are just an unincorporated area. It is too early in the process to determine exactly what those revenues would be based on different
scenarios. This step would be taken if the initial reaction of Port Charlotte residents is positive and forward looking. At that time a feasibility study would be conducted which would layout exactly what the projected revenues and expenses would be for Port Charlotte.
Initially, we believed that taxation would be slightly higher with incorporation but with the help of the Florida League of Cities, a non-profit organization that provides expertise to areas attempting to incorporate as well as assistance to existing municipalites at no charge, we now believe that we could incorporate with no additional taxation and may be able to reduce taxation over time. The key will be to continue with the current MSTU (Municipal Service Taxing Unit - applied countywide) for the sheriff's department and maintaining the existing MSBU for Fire and EMS. These are the biggest operating expenses for municipalities.