A New Perspective 11-18-2004: News Business

Golden Gate Gazette

November 18, 2004

Each year we see a few newspapers, shoppers, and other news products enter the world of publishing in this area. My brother and I used to keep a list on the office wall of all of the papers that had come and gone during our time in Collier County. After a few years, the list was too long to continue and the fun had worn out.
We used to get all excited, hovering over our area, trying to protect our turf, and cursing the people who stole our ideas, copied our stories, or even worse – did something good that we wished we would have done.
You soon learn to just do your own thing and let the others do theirs. Sweating others stuff is so unproductive.
This week, I read an account of a person’s failed attempt to launch another newspaper.
The ‘victim’ was a coordinator of professional writing for a college and he felt he could do a good job. He had asked many people in the small neighborhood if they would support such a venture and had received good feedback. He felt there was a lot of news that wasn’t being told – news he felt the residents would be interested in reading.
He didn’t dare attempt a weekly as he didn’t want to do this full time. He decided to come out quarterly. With a quarterly edition, he felt he would have plenty of lead-time to work on the stories and put the paper together.
What he didn’t count on, was that the news never stops. Things were continually happening that should be covered for the next issue. The work was cutting in on his family responsibilities and other commitments and his free time to work on the paper diminished. He was quoted as saying, “When you do everything yourself, you get no time.”
Costs were another big factor in his decision to finally pull out of the endeavor. Advertising was covering most of his costs, such as printing and paying the few people who were helping him.
He said it finally came down to advertising revenue and cash flow. He had one guy doing ad sales and a recent college grad doing stories. For each story the reporter submitted, another ad had to be sold. That meant he had to sell ads too.
The project got even more time consuming. It left little time to write and do investigative reporting.
He couldn’t determine how many people read the paper. He printed about 1,000 copies and distributed them at bus stops, convenience stores, restaurants and other businesses.
At one stop, he dropped a bunch off and 10 minutes later he noticed all of the papers were gone. He was rather upset that someone had trashed the papers. He checked the garbage cans in the area but couldn’t find them. They cost him a lot of money.
After six months, he never received any letters to the editor, nor did he get any email from readers. He wasn’t sure if anyone really cared if he published or not.
He was working furiously for his next edition, when it hit him that he had not met some other obligation and let the ball drop. He stopped publishing and got back on with his other less complicated life.

A New Perspective 11-11-2004: News Business

Golden Gate Gazette

November 11, 2004

It’s been a good year to be in the newspaper business. The prior three years were difficult for our industry nationwide.
You could tell the market was going to turn around, and in Collier County in particular, it was going to be a boomer of a year for the communities we serve.
Unfortunately, all this opportunity sat in front of us and we were plain out of cash to take advantage of it. We checked into several ways to raise some capital and ended up selling to someone with big enough pockets to fund the necessary growth.
We’ve hired people for writing, updated equipment and procedures, gutted out the lean summer months with an expanded staff before the revenues started to come in.
This week, we hired a new experienced newspaper advertising salesperson named Debbie. In the past, we had to let good salespeople go and train new ones. Experience makes such a difference. You can take an knowledgeable associate out on the street a couple of times, and they pick up the ball and run.
Part of our expansion plans included getting a circulation manager. This week, he came onboard and his name is Brad. You will see him around town, making us more visible, getting new newsstand locations, and trying to sell more subscriptions. We haven’t had an active circulation drive in more than 10 years.
Subscriptions have grown just by luck in the past. Now we’ll have someone actually asking people to buy so they don’t have to miss a single issue.
If you are a member of a group and are interested in an easy fundraiser, call our office and ask for Brad. He’ll help you set up a subscription drive that will raise a little money for your group and will benefit your community by getting local news in more peoples’ hands. The more people who read The Gazette, the better the community will be.
Good communication and an informed citizenry are what make our local community a better place to live, work, and play.
Election Results
In the after-election world, most winners and losers were noticeably noble in their acceptances and concessions. They showed their followers how to be Class Acts and get on with the business of improving the quality of life for all Americans. Their messages were genuine.
In my ‘kinder more gentler’ days, I used to write a letter to the local candidates who lost the election, thanking them for running for office. The people who lose are the real heroes. The winners face the consequences, good or bad, of gaining office, however; the losers are the ones who stuck their necks out and took a risk. Having an opposing candidate in any race keeps the election process honest and keeps politicians attention on the needs of their constituents.
Without a challenger in the race, incumbents can become complacent but with an opponent, they know they need to please the majority of the voters in order to keep their elected office.
Maybe some of you can help me in writing those letters thanking the losing candidates for their efforts in keeping government working just a little bit better. The snail mail and email addresses are online at http://colliervotes.com/candidates.asp


A New Perspective 11-04-04: Golden Gate Master Plan

Golden Gate Gazette

November 4, 2004

Golden Gate cleared some major hurdles this past week. The Collier County Commissioners just approved the final round of changes to the Golden Gate Master Plan.
After surveying the residents and putting in three years of committee work, the plan includes new commercial activity centers opening at some main intersections in the Golden Gate Estates.
The uses for commercial will be light, opening the doors for some conveniences that will make it so people won’t have to drive all the way into town to get goods and services. A vast majority of the Estates population desired this.
The Estates commercial centers will have landscape and design criteria and set backs from the road way with well thought-out access and egress that should resolve some problems that occur at commercial intersections in Naples, where they get backed up with traffic.
In the Golden Gate City area, the surveys showed that residents have an even stronger desire to have a more intense commercial availability. They want more shopping and restaurants. They don’t want to have to fight the traffic to run into town.
The number one desire expressed in this survey was that residents want to feel safe while shopping and be able to walk to areas without having to drive.
New commercial opportunities will exist along Golden Gate Parkway from the intersection of Sunshine Boulevard to Collier Boulevard on Golden Gate Parkway on the north, and from the BP (formerly Mobil Station) to the Golf Course on the south.
There is work in progress to come up with a way to mix the existing residential areas with the new commercial. There have been a few community meetings of individuals living in the affected area to come up with ideas on how to proceed so that everyone is satisfied with the plan.
This group will come up with what is called an overlay to the Golden Gate Master Plan that will set criteria as to what should be allowed in the area and to what standards. When the work gets further along, the citizens will be shown the final plans and have the opportunity to make improvements before the plans are submitted for commission for final approval.
The rich cultural diversity of this area opens some doors to ideas such as a mini “Epcot Center” right in Golden Gate, using the talents and knowledge of the local residents to provide unique entertainment, dining, and retail sales that offer a sample of culture to the larger community.
Pricing probably won’t be as expensive as Naples, so this area could become a draw to an expanded commercial base.
Have you noticed; nearly everywhere you drive in the community, things are basically looking better (give or take a few abandoned shopping carts). Even brighter days can be ahead if we all remain a part of the process. After it gets started, we can further the success by spending our money with the new stores.

A New Perspective 10-28-2004: Fire Districts and Budgets

Golden Gate Gazette

October 28, 2004

The meeting got a little heated when Golden Gate Fire Commissioner Chuck McMahon questioned the need for a millage rate tax increase while at the same time handing out top dollar salaries, Oct. 13.
It was a good question. He wasn’t provided much information to document the need for a tax increase, yet, he was expected to make a decision right there on the spot whether to move to ask the legislature to put a potential 50 percent tax increase before local voters.
To top it off, Assistant Chief Dave Anderson lambasted him that he would have the audacity to question the need. It’s embarrassing to have a paid employee talk to anyone in that manner, let alone his boss, an elected commissioner.
Anderson obviously isn’t in the proper position to display this kind of demeanor. When you are being paid a professional wage of nearly $85,000 plus significant benefits, it isn’t too much to ask for professionalism at public meetings.
Based on statistics provided at the meeting, here’s what we are looking at regarding the budget. The fire district will be receiving 30 percent more in ad valorem taxes next year than they did this year. This year was 23 percent more than last year. Last year was 26 percent more than the year before that, and that year was 28 percent more than the year before that.
In other words, we have managed the last 10 years with annual tax revenue increases averaging less than 10%.
The ad valorem taxes predicted for the coming year are two and a half times what they were in 2000/2001. The tax revenue is increasing faster than the growth rate of the area.
Looking at those numbers, it seems pretty difficult to understand how the fire district can cry poor. At the same time they spend the majority of that 30 percent tax increase on raising salaries to the point where there is nothing left to address growth issues.
This year, an additional $400,000 was budgeted for regular salaries and only one $36,000 position was added. That doesn’t include the increases in health benefits, retirement benefits (near 25 percent), and other wage related costs. No wonder there will be a shortage.
Such growth rates in the business world would be phenomenal. Any business that couldn’t make it with those kinds of increases would be accused of poor business practices.
Over the next 10 years, our area will receive the benefit of a good proportion of the growth of the county. We will be receiving a lot of money in impact fees. Property values will continue to grow at a fantastic rate as these empty lots become expensive homes. New higher-end developments are approved and soon to be built, new communities want to join our district and secede from the North Naples fire district. We will have lots of money, if we can be more prudent with salaries and wages.
Our salaries are inflated because negotiators pick the four highest paying departments in the area and our ranks want the same thing. People are clamoring to get into our department. We don’t need to play the game.

A New Perspective 10-21-2004: Fire Department

Golden Gate Gazette

October 21, 2004

I met with Fire Chief Don Peterson this week and felt the frustration he is experiencing in a variety of his efforts.
The Chief is a great addition to our community. He is active in community groups and sincerely works to make things better in our community. There is no doubt he has a passion for what he does.
For the past few years, he has served as a citizen volunteer on the Golden Gate Master Plan Restudy Committee to make sure the future needs of the community are being met. The Committee was not able to complete its work in the assigned time period so the county established a Golden Gate Ad Hoc Committee, of which he is a member. The ad hoc committee was set up to fine-tune items that could not be finalized in the former committee’s timeframe. The torch to complete the job was passed on.
Last week, there was some confusion and the Ad Hoc Committee’s suggestions were thrown out by the Planning Commission without a glance because the committee was deemed unofficial. The verbal beating as the unofficial nature of the ad hoc committee came from Planning Commission Chairman Mark Strain, a former member of the Golden Gate Master Plan Committee.
The comment came as a slap in the face to Peterson. As a member of the ad hoc committee, he had been working diligently to notify and involve the community to ensure the changes were made with community input, using the guidelines set forth by the county’s original Master Plan Committee.
Then after all that work, he was shot down without a chance to present the information. After the meeting, the existence of the ad hoc committee was clarified and some of the smoke has cleared. Peterson’s hard work with the community can be salvaged in time to make things happen.
This is not the first battle for Peterson. The Chief has been fighting the planning commission and the county commission to get a fire station built with a training tower the District feels is in the best interest of the District. Once again, he got beat up pretty soundly by both boards.
On top off all this, he’s got me beating up the fire commission about the District’s budget, salaries and a proposed hike in the millage rate.
Just when he thought he was at his low, a columnist for the daily newspaper punched him just a little harder when he and the other county fire departments were accused of setting up their fiefdoms and marking their territories with towers. Once again, he heard the dreaded mention of consolidation of fire districts.
At least nobody mentioned the duplication of efforts between the county EMS and Fire & Rescue Districts. That issue has been pretty quiet lately.
There’s an old joke that goes:
“I stuck up for you the other day.”
“Oh yeah?” the other person replies.
“Yes, someone said you weren’t fit to feed to the pigs, and I said, ‘yes you are!”
That may be how the Chief is feeling about now, but I am genuinely glad he’s our Fire Chief and I believe by far that he’s the best in the area. We can all be proud of him. Give him a pat on the back next time you see him. He could use a little pick-me-up. If he gets too discouraged, he might not be as motivated to work so hard for us in the future.


A New Perspective 10-16 2004 Endorsements

Golden Gate Gazette

October 16, 2004

Since 1992, it has been a policy of The Gazette to endorse candidates and issues that will be appearing on the election ballot. This year’s column appears sooner than normal due to early voting, which begins Oct. 18.
Some readers say they find the endorsements a service to them; others get upset. The endorsements are derived from research or familiarity with the candidates, their work in the community, their responsiveness, and the way they conduct themselves in public.
Agree or disagree, get out and vote.
There aren’t very many local elections this year, so the column would have been shorter than in years’ past. However, with the ease of getting an amendment on the ballot, there are eight ballot amendments to cover.
As to local races, we have Estates resident Linda Hartman running against the more experienced incumbent Jack Winters for the Mosquito Control District. Hartman has been so active in the Golden Gate and Estates issues, that she deserves a shot at representing this community on the board. What she lacks in experience will be made up in her contact with the local residents, and bringing a better understanding of Mosquito Control to the area through her presence in the community.
The Golden Gate Fire Commission race is a great event. All three candidates have a passion for the fire service. Two of them, Chuck McMahon and Rob Stoneburner, are more active in their community and have a good handle on public input.
McMahon, the incumbent, secured the endorsement of the Republican Executive Committee. During his time on the board we have seen him stand up for his opinions and fight for change; however, his inability to gather support from the other commissioners has made him less effective.
The fire district’s budget has nearly doubled in the past few years and the job requires a business head with the ability to crunch numbers and make it through the big budget maze. Rob Stoneburner, who is new to politics, is a good businessman, has strong, long-time ties to the community, and might be more persuasive on the board.
In other community activities, Stoneburner has shown he will stand up and voice his opinion, and will probably have a better time at persuading other commissioners to help him get things done.
Matt Johnson, the third candidate is a union firefighter and although sincere in his pursuit, will soon find himself pulled between firefighter issues and public issues. It is not a good mix.
The District 3 County Commissioner race pits incumbent Tom Henning against political newcomer Julie Uresti. While Uresti may be more pleasant to look at and deal with, she can’t compare when it comes to knowledge of the issues that affect our community, nor provide the know-how to get things done for our community. Henning has been extremely active in our community and knows our issues. He won’t have a learning curve to overcome and will hit the road running.
In the race to replace Congressman Porter Goss, Connie Mack is the best candidate. He stays close to the conservative values that most of this area tends to lean toward and probably won’t bring any unexpected surprises.
The U.S. Senate race pits Mel Martinez against Betty Castor. Castor’s heart seems to be in the right place, but I don’t think we can afford her solutions. Mel Martinez has strong support throughout the Senate and will probably be more effective at getting things done for this area without venturing off into new grand government solutions that we would regret later.
Finally, George W. Bush is the better candidate for President of the United States. We need his constant unwavering stand as this county goes forward to eradicate the cancer that exists in the world.
He is a more convincing leader to other countries, as everyone knows he means what he says and he does what he says. Without him in command, I fear the upheaval that would follow, as terrorists would be free to explore new opportunities with someone less resolved in protecting American citizens.
Now the Amendments.
Amendment 1. Parental Notification of Abortion of a Minor. Vote Yes. Any parent will vote yes on this. Those opposing claim it could slow necessary medical procedures and violate privacy rights. Parents ought to have the right to violate their child’s privacy.
Amendment 2. Constitutional Amendments Proposed by Initiative. Vote Yes. This amendment slows down the process of getting a Constitutional Amendment placed on the ballot. It will allow citizens more time to research issues. As you can see, there a bunch of amendments that most you probably haven’t heard of. Now you’re supposed to vote and make an intelligent decision.
Amendment 3. The Medical Liability Claimant’s Compensation Amendment. Vote Yes. It is a start in helping to bring medical costs in line. This amendment says a patient will receive 70% of the first $250,000 in damages awarded from a medical malpractice suit where the attorney will be paid by contingency fees. The patient must receive 90% of the amount awarded over $250,000, exclusive of reasonable and customary costs. It will be less lucrative for attorneys to go after cases for the wrong reasons. This will save us quite a bit of money in insurance costs.
Amendment 4. Authorizes Miami-Dade and Broward County Voters to Approve Slot Machines In Pari-mutuel Facilities. Vote No. This amendment would allow more gambling and all of the social problems that go with it. It would tarnish the rest of Florida’s clean family image.
Amendment 5. Florida Minimum Wage Amendment. Vote No. This amendment will establish the minimum wage in Florida at nearly 20 percent above the federal level and ties the minimum wage in Florida to the consumer pricing index, which can increase annually. If a wage increase would help, why not double it? The logic on this doesn’t make sense.
Amendment 6. Repeal of High Speed Rail. Vote Yes. This program will cost Florida taxpayers $25 to 30 billion dollars, and won’t benefit our area. It shouldn’t have passed the first time. It can now be taken away.
Amendment 7. Patients Right to Know About Adverse Medical Incidents. Vote Yes. This allows patients to view a doctor’s malpractice incidents and adverse judgments. This will work to keep the doctors clean, while Amendment #3 will work on the attorneys. Both will benefit the consumer.
Amendment 8. Public Protection from Repeated Medical Malpractice. Vote No. This amendment prohibits medical doctors with three or more incidents of medical malpractice from being licensed to practice medicine in Florida. Some fields of medicine have higher rates of medical malpractice suits than others. A blanket prohibition isn’t appropriate. If amendment # 7 is passed, patients can determine for themselves, whether or not they wish to use a doctor for medical services.

A New Perspective 10-07-2004: Traffic and Roads

Golden Gate Gazette

October 7, 2004

It’s a shame we are having public meetings to determine solutions to road problems in the Estates and nobody presents the obvious.
We’re talking about spending massive amounts of money to build roads, tear up landscapes, purchase a tremendous amount of right of way, disrupt natural habitats, give opportunity for all types of new pollution and all while there is no money to complete the projects.
In the mean time, we have this roadway called I-75, which seems like the sacred cow that nobody wants to touch.
The roads in the northern part of Collier County are currently carrying all the traffic in the north as well as southern residential areas because there are no southern alternatives to get to and from home.
If Everglades Boulevard and Wilson Boulevard could access I-75, a tremendous ease of the roadway system would occur. Traffic would be diverted from many plugged areas.
I-75 can easily handle the load, tremendous amounts of money could be saved in actual road building, consultants, designing, and public distress.
Public distress costs everyone a lot of money, because changing plans and fighting over plans ends up costing a lot in additional tax dollars being extracted from us. Worse yet, it causes delays in solutions.
In the past, local politicians haven’t wanted to breach the topic of gaining access to I-75 because the effort to get the job done has been a tremendous effort. It is hard to find someone to be accountable to decisions and policy. The agencies responsible for making things happen can be a nameless, faceless glob of bureaucracy that can’t be held accountable.
Times have changed. Our area has strong legislators that will go to bat for us at the state and national level. If they get weak-kneed on this topic, we have to help them get strong knees or find someone who will work for us.
We’ve had a few recent glimpses at tragedy with the four hurricanes hitting the state over the past two months. We were not badly affected in Collier County, but had evacuation been necessary, the current road system couldn’t have handled it.
Access in and out of Southwest Florida is critical and we are kept from a simple solution for simple politics’ sake. It isn’t a money issue. Politics need to be changed.
We haven’t even mentioned the fire hazard that will soon be in front of us with the damage caused by the strong winds of the recent hurricanes. There are dead branches all over in the Estates that will make for a busy brush fire season. If a fire starts in the north and heads south, thousands of people will be trapped.
Can we get the ball rolling to find real solutions to the traffic in the Estates? The solution is I-75 access. It will cost hardly anything, and save a tremendous amount of time, effort and lives.


A New Perspective – 10-06-2004: Fire Budgets

October 6, 2004

Golden Gate Gazette

I read somewhere this week that one of the steps toppling a democratic nation is when the country goes from complacency to apathy.
I’ve been writing about how the Golden Gate Fires and Rescue district has been throwing your hard earned money out the window, and are fixing to spend a bunch more the next two years because of the over zealous spending of the past few years. 65% of our Citizen readers are in the Golden Gate district which runs all of the way down to Rattlesnake Hammock Road. East Naples district appears to be much more reasonable in their “bonanza of tax revenue” coming in the door the past few years.
Last weeks budget bonanza, Golden Gate’s assistant fire chief said “it’s like winning the lottery,” didn’t get a rise out of anyone. They spent $1 million more than they should have for the upcoming tax year and everyone seems alright with it.
The lottery money is all spent and there will be shortages again next year and they will complain about the need to raise the millage rate again.
I’m going to try to spell it out one more time. If people don’t seem to care, I’m done writing about the horrendous waste going on and become apathetic with the rest of the world and watch our democracy fall.
This year ad valorem taxes (the ones you pay for your house) were used to buy a $728,000 truck that would have been received for free if they would have shared the prematurely built fire house with North Naples. Impact fees are suppose to pay for growth related costs of new fire trucks, but we’d already spent all of our and took out loans that cost us an additional $300,000 in expenses.
All administrators were given a $5,000 bonus whether they deserved it or not. The department was feeling so rich, that they opened a Union Contract up to give them more money than they had requested.
This would have been the final year of a budget where 8% and 5% and 5% would have been given for raises on top of increases for years of service and increased retirement benefits and more time off from work while making the same money.
It is a rare occasion to ever open a contract with a union. Our generous department opened up the contract and gave everyone more money than had been requested with $5,000 pay raises for everyone.
The excitement must have been fantastic as the money came blowing all over the room and people grabbing at it desperately before it was all gone. That raise will cost the district over $300,000 next year. Those two items alone cost you and one a million bucks. That doesn’t include the automatic 25% that has to be added to retirement and the other spending done with a fat budget.
I can only shake my head in disgust and see why nobody trusts government with tax money. The worst part is, nobody seems to care. They’ll just continue to do it.
I recently told my son who is a sophomore at UCF that he ought to get that 4 year degree and get a job as a fire fighter because there isn’t a better career out there with the beginning pay salaries, lucrative annual increases, the awesome paid time off, and incredible retirement benefits.
He agreed and is going to do it.  Starting salary for a beginning fire fighter is now $39,900 plus all of the benefits. Awesome dude!

A New Perspective 9-30-04: Fire Budgets

Golden Gate Gazette

September 30, 2004

I just about fell off my chair this morning when I heard the Golden Gate Fire Commissioners let Chief Peterson talk them into trying to raise the millage rate to get more money to hire more people, buy new trucks and more stuff.
Last week, I wrote about how the fire department budgeted more than $400,000 additional money just to pay for regular salaries. That is an increase from the $2 million budgeted last year (nearly 20 percent hike) and they only plan to hire one more person on that increase.
In 2002, the administrative positions were budgeted for a big increase in pay, too. This year’s total wages budget equals a 17 percent increase.
Since that was such a high number, you could figure there would be a number of new hires available in that increase.
The District’s ad valorum tax revenue base (the amount of property tax you pay for owning property in Collier County) went up $800,000 to $4.6 million. That’s a lot of money and a big increase. Can you imagine running a business with annual growth rates of 17 percent a year?
Our District continues to recieve $6-$7 million a year in impact fees. That revenue is currently paying off all of the new buildings. Pretty soon, it will buy a bunch of trucks and equipment.
It’s hard to validate the panic of striving to raise our taxes.
Salaries of the local fire fighters weren’t competitive in years gone by; but during the last round of negotiations, the pay schedule was right in there with East Naples and North Naples.
We are just coming off a three-year contract that paid everyone an annual 3.4 percent cost of living raise and an additional annual 3 percent longevity raise for an increase of over six percent a year.
In addition to that, administrative positions increased between 8 and 15 percent in 2002.
Fire Commissioners got a well-deserved pay increase from $75 to $500 per month, to make the position a little more appealing. They also received free health insurance.
Now we’re going to get a plea of “poor us, we need more money.” It’s pretty unbelievable.
The Chief is a great guy, dedicated, likable and obviously a great salesman.
It’s good to be in a town that still has a local newspaper, which provides information on issues that you might not otherwise learn about.
I think of all of the good things that can become of this newspaper. All it lacks is more support from the business community. Look through the pages and thank the merchants that make this paper possible.
I recently read about a nationally syndicated columnist who moved to a new town. The local paper there had carried his column and decided to drop it after he moved there, to which he was thankful. His name is Baxter Black.
Here’s what he had to say about the small-town press, “I think of local papers as the last refuge of unfiltered America. A running of the warts and triumphs of real people unfettered by the spin, the bias and the opaque polish of today’s homogenized journalism. It’s the difference between homemade bread and Pop Tarts. It gives our little community a sense of place in the world. We are important to somebody. We make a difference. The paper recognizes that they are the glue, the mirror, the billboard, the flashlight, the semi fore, the boom box, and microphone of small towns. It is how we hold hands. They care. They show we care. They wear our hearts on their sleeve.”


A New Perspective 9-23-04: Taxes and Growth Management

Golden Gate Gazette

September 23, 2004

It’s our tax money and we ought to be concerned. This year’s tentative Golden Gate Fire & Rescue District has budget plans for a 17 percent increase in wages, salaries and benefits. The funding will only add one inspector position.
They also budgeted less for uniforms and zero for new vehicle purchases, so do you suppose we’re going to get one really good, high priced, but naked and walking inspector?
Probably not, instead, you can be sure some hefty salary increases are coming down the pike. When you budget a 17 percent increase for salaries, how much of it will the Fire Union expect to receive?
The answer is all of it. Last year’s total compensation budget was $3,516,084. This year’s budgeted amount is $4,126,924. The total general fund budget is $5 less than $5.67 million.
Some archaic government agencies reduce tax rates when they have more money than they need.
Our fire commissioners awarded our department some healthy well-deserved raises over the past few years to bring salaries up to the same levels as the East Naples and North Naples districts. Some of our salaries exceeded those of the Marco District.
Our Fire Department is very well run, highly trained, has all of the best toys, and its employees are paid extremely well compared to most departments. It wasn’t always that way. Hopefully, we won’t get to the point of ridiculousness. Our district is an excellent place to work and build a career.
When budgets get this big, taxpayers become apprehensive after seeing what large amounts of money have done to other departments. North Naples is an example of too much money, poor bookkeeping and corruption. Reducing taxes would have done wonderful things for that department.
Here in Golden Gate, while our operating budget rises dramatically, capital expenditures, such as buildings, will be going down as impact fee revenues slow. Growth is slowing, which makes the overall budget appear less than last year. The debt load from all of the new additions built over the past couple years is getting less and that makes the overall expenditures less. Debt service cost $140,000 less at the current level of $6.6 million.
Golden Gate Redevelopment
We have held quite a few public meetings to figure out the best way to meet the community’s future needs. There was a pretty clear sense of direction from the property owners and community members on a direction for Golden Gate Parkway. The committee is working to put those ideas together for a public presentation to make sure everyone is still on the same page. After that, the plans will be put into official motion.
Unlike the Parkway, the community meetings on Collier Boulevard didn’t come up with a clear direction. The committee will put some plans together based on what they heard, but it may require a professional to provide guidance.
If we don’t make the plans, someone else will come in and tell us how they are going to do it.