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Fire district approves final 2019-2020 budget
October 2, 2019

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The Lehigh Acres Fire Control and Rescue District has approved its final budget for fiscal year 2019-2020, along with a non-ad valorem special assessment rate increase for all properties.

The board on Sept. 24 voted 5-0 in favor of adopting its fiscal budget and on a resolution to adopt a non-ad valorem special assessment rate increase, a rate that came in at 5.79% plus all applicable allowable fees.

District Attorney Richard Pringle reviewed the budget approval process rules prior to the board voting on its final operating budget.

"We differ in that we don't collect a tax ad valorem. By law we need to adopt the budget by resolution," Pringle said.

District Finance Manager Anita Kressel presented the 2019-2020 budget, which was considered and discussed at three budget workshops and a public hearing held on Sept. 16 at East Lee County High School.

The final 2019-2020 budget approved was $40,099,706, which includes an $8,900,000 construction loan in the general fund, special revenue funds, capital project funds, reserves and beginning fund balances.

"We have an $8.9 million construction loan that is being carried forward and that's why the total budget seems a little higher," Kressel said

Fire district expenditures total $30,449,945, consisting of about $10,115,874 on employee salaries, $9.82 million on capital outlay, $1.09 million on professional services, $1.07 million on debt service and $743,000 on operating supplies.

For the $9.82 million capital outlay, the monies are allocated as follows: $175,000 for the capital buildings fund, $151,000 for capital machinery and equipment, $74,000 capital impact fees, $500,000 for vehicles and $8.9 million for construction in progress.

Directly following the board's budget adoption hearing was its regular meeting.

Fire Chief Robert DiLallo went over his report with board members.

"We are getting even closer on our land swap deal with Cookies and Crackers for Station 102 on Homestead Road. I would also like to report the construction on Station 101 and 103 is going very well. Station 101 is moving extremely fast. The entire site and building have already been gutted. They are currently working on footers, underground plumbing and electricals this week," DiLallo said.

DiLallo also reported on his meeting with a local representative.

"Last month I reported I would meet with State Rep. Spencer Roach on Sept. 11. I did meet with him and brought him up to date on the challenges going on within the district. He assured me that he is committed to filling out an appropriation bill again this session on our behalf to build Station 106. He did ask that since we are asking legislators for something of this magnitude, it would be a good idea to have firefighters and commissioners, in uniform, present in these meetings," DiLallo said.

The bill would consist of a $5 million appropriation request for the build-out of the district's Station 106.

Under new business, the board considered an administrative wage increase proposed by DiLallo. Commissioners decided to revisit the action on a 5 percent increase in salary for all administrative personnel.

According to DiLallo, this raise was already included in the approved 2019-2020 budget.

The board also discussed the possibility of bringing the referendum for a special assessment methodology back to the ballot in future elections.

Sixty percent of residents who attended the fire district's recent public hearing mentioned being in favor of bringing the special assessment back for a vote.

The Lehigh Acres Fire Control and Rescue District board will hold a special meeting on Oct. 9 at 6 p.m. The meeting will be held at LAMSID Community Room, 601 East County Ln., Lehigh Acres. For more information, call 239-303-5300 or visit online at www.lehighfd.com.

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