September 12 — It’s budget time for a lot of municipalities and the city of Marathon is right in the thick of it.
Mayor John Bartus of Marathon joined Good Morning Keys on KeysTalk 96.9/102.5FM to talk about issues facing Marathon.
The first budget meeting for Marathon will be tomorrow at 5 p.m. in advance of the regular city council meeting at 5:30 p.m.
The millage rate has been set at 2.77 mils. That’s the same millage rate from last year. Because of property selling at higher values, it means increased revenues for the city.
Bartus explained, “One of the most important things that we’re going to be able to do with that is get very close to within one year of reserve. When we went through Hurricane Irma five years ago, we had six months of reserves and we went through those so fast. FEMA doesn’t give you the cash, they only reimburse you after you’ve already spent it. So we learned that lesson really quick. It would be really good to have a year’s worth of reserves and over the last several years, we’ve finally have been able to bring the budget back up to the point where we passed this budget at 2.77 mils and we will have close to that full year of reserves in case something bad does happen in the next few years, which we hope it doesn’t, but we will be a lot better prepared and a lot better ready to handle something like that.”
At the council meeting tomorrow, the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary will present the restoration blueprint.
There will also be a proclamation for Be Like Mike Week.
Bartus said, “That’s coming up in October. Mike Forster was a really good friend of mine, a lot of people’s down here and sadly we lost him to COVID. The United Way of Collier and the Keys is doing a Be Like Mike Week so we’re going to definitely proclaim that because we love Mike. He was a dedicated community servant and we certainly do miss him.”
Some housekeeping items will also be on the agenda, including clearing up some language in a few ordinances.
A new ordinance coming up for consideration would create an enforcement mechanism for alcoholic beverage consumption in parks and beaches.
Bartus said, “If it’s not an event where the council has granted an exemption, we have some issues now and again in some of our parks where people show up and they’ll bring their bottles and their cans and stuff and just sit there and go to it and sometimes the results are not the best in the world. So we’re going to take a look at that and see if we can pass an enforcement mechanism for our public decency ordinance.”
Council will also approve the ranking and allocations for the building permit allocation system for the next period.
The Primary Election saw some voter resolutions on the ballot. One was to extend council member terms to four years and that did not pass. So the council member terms will remain at three years.
Bartus said, “That does mean the city will probably have to spend somewhere around $250,000 to stage our elections over the next 20 years.”
The second one was to make sure council members would still have staggered terms in the election cycles and that passed.
Bartus explained, “Right now we have four seats up for grabs because of our council member who was appointed to the seat now has to run for the rest of the term. In this case the council member who would get fewest number of votes, but still be a winner would then have the shorter term. So we could keep three seats in one election cycle, two seats in the next election cycle, so we don’t get to a position where we would have four seats in one or possibly like five seats in one election cycle, which would be a really not good thing to have. We need staggered terms and we need to make sure that we have some continuity on that council between election cycles.”
In November, there will be nine candidates looking for four seats.
In terms of the biggest issue going forward for Marathon, Bartus believes it is affordable housing.
Bartus said, “In Marathon we’ve done a pretty decent job in creating new affordable housing. As a matter of fact, Governor Rick Scott gave us 300 units and now we’re having to fight a lawsuit on that. It’s anti-growth. So we’re having to deal with stuff that’s being brought against us by outside influences that really do impact the quality of life for Marathon residents and could potentially affect Marathon residents taxpayer dollars.”
All of that impacts the council’s ability provide affordable housing.
Bartus said, “It makes you just sit back and shake your head and wonder.”
Parking fees and boat launch fees will be updated soon.
Bartus said, “We were very adamant that local residents should not be charged and there must be a mechanism by which they can read a license plate and know if it is a local registration.”