It’s projects and budget and help for residents in Key West with City Commissioner Clayton Lopez

July 28 – It’s summer time and the living is easy, but also quite busy in the city of Key West.

Clayton Lopez, Key West City Commissioner, joined Good Morning Keys on KeysTalk 96.9/102.5FM to discuss issues facing the city.

Lopez’s daughter has been reaching out to get donations for families in need in the Keys, including back to school supplies. At the same time some of the non-profits in the Bahama Village area have been doing the same thing.

Lopez connected his daughter with the non-profits to combine the efforts and a Back to School event will be held from noon to 4 p.m. on August 6 at the Nelson English Park in Bahama Village.

The Douglas gym expansion in the Bahama Village is moving forward. It’s been a back-and-forth project in terms of progress due to a number of factors.

Lopez said, “We’re finally getting ready to make this happen and I just can’t wait. I’m just so happy that we’re finally ready to make it happen.”

The 3.2 acre project in Bahama Village could see some land authority money to help offset the total cost of the homeownership piece.

Lopez said, “It would qualify because it’s about affordable housing and that’s one of the allowable expenses, but we’re looking into that as well. I’m pretty confident that we’re going to be able to reach our goals. The current plan is not the one that I initially supported, but it is the one that we have now, so I’m all in with trying to make it work. That’s the way it should be.”

Budget workshop meetings have been underway in Key West recently and the tax rate was capped at 12.5% over rollback. Rollback is the amount of ad valorem taxes that are needed to raise the same amount of money as last fiscal year.

Before you freak out, that is the ceiling – that’s as high as it can go. It will very likely be lower than that.

Lopez said, “The reason that that has to be there, we tend to set the initial millage at higher than we actually expect it to be so that when we come in with a lower rate hopefully then we’re covered. We can’t go over that millage rate, but we can come in lower or as low as we’re able to and I know the city staff is working hard to make sure that we bring that in much lower. I expect to see it come down to somewhere in the single digits. I don’t know how far down that’s going to be, but I expect it down to the single digits. From what I understand the county’s looking at ten.”

The total assessed property values are part of what will likely help with lowering the millage rate. They are 9.2% higher than last year.

The departments will go back for another look at the budget and the commissioners will come back together in September for another public budget hearing.

Lopez pointed out, “We’re still under what we did last year, so that’s pretty good news in itself.”

The Cow Key Bridge was recently renamed the Cheryl Cates Memorial Bridge in honor of a business woman, wife and mother who was well known in the Keys and lost her battle with COVID.

Lopez said, “It was an emotional event. I was honored to be there and I just can’t say enough about it. It was somewhat overwhelming watching Craig (Cheryl’s husband) get up and of course, he’s an emotional guy in the first place and listen to him talk about the love of his life. Of course he broke down midway through it, but he was able to do it. Then their daughter Tammy got up and spoke. It was just amazing. The number of people that turned out to pay homage was also quite moving in and of itself. A well-deserved honor. Cheryl liked to welcome people to Key West and its people and culture and the like. And now with the naming of this bridge in her memory that will continue in perpetuity.”