How Can I Help: Attend the March 6 County Council Meeting and support the updated costs adoption
When: Tuesday, March 6 9:30 am
Where: Lee County Council Chambers, Old Lee County Courthouse, 2120 Main St., Fort Myers
You probably have noticed that every year our major traffic corridors are getting more and more crowded. That’s not too surprising since Lee County’s year-round population has grown by 80,000 residents in the last 7 years, since 2010. Add to that about 2,500 new snowbird residents each year and the growing number of visitors who have been part of our recent record-breaking tourism seasons.
Unless you speak out you haven’t seen anything yet. The Bureau of Business and Economic Research (BEBR) at the University of Florida forecasts Lee County’s Population to grow by 13,000 full time residents each year through 2045, by which time we will have added another 383,000 full time residents to our current population of 700,000.
Unfortunately our County Board is not planning for a transportation network capable of handling all the vehicles this growing population will be driving every day.
In December 2015, a little over two years ago the county’s transportation planning agency, call the MPO, approved a Long Range Transportation Plan (the 2040 Plan) that estimated the cost of needed County roadway improvements by 2040 to be $2.1 billion. Unfortunately they could identify less than half the funding necessary to pay for these needs, about $960 million.
In 2015 the County created a system for allocating some of their annual property tax collections for transportation projects, they called it “Growth Increment Funds”. If this is continued it will provide about $300 million toward the needed road improvements, reducing the revenue shortfall to $860 million, still 41% less than the needs.
Earlier, in March 2013, the County Board voted to reduce what had been a major local source of transportation funding, the Transportation Impact Fees, to 20% of the independently and professionally determined cost of the road improvements required by each kind of new development. Later in 2015 the Board voted to raise the collection rate to 45% of the cost level for the next 3 years ending on March 16th.
As a consequence of these actions the contribution of impact fees to the cost of County Transportation projects fell from 36% between 2005 and 2013 to about 11% from 2013 to the present.
Ever since Lee County adopted Transportation Impact Fees, some 20 years ago, they have contracted with Duncan and Associates every three years, to determine the updated cost of the infrastructure improvements required by the growth within the county. Late in 2017 the Commission contracted with Duncan to update the Impact Fee Costs for County Transportation, Parks, Lee County Schools and Lee County’s Fire Districts
On Tuesday March 6 the Lee County Board will consider:
- adopting the 2018 Duncan Reports that will increase the impact fees for Transportation by 55%, by 21% for Schools and 62% for Fire Districts over the last Duncan cost level, and
- whether they want to extend the less than 100% cost recovery policies that they have adopted for the last 5 years.
If the Board does not vote to extend a lower cost recovery rate, it automatically returns to 100%.
We would urge you to contact the County Commissioners and urge them to adopt the updated costs included in the 2018 Duncan Reports and to oppose any ordinance that extends a collection rate less than 100%.
Finally a few words about School Impact Fees. Florida law gives the County the authority to determine the Impact Fee policy for the School Board. Consequently the County reduced the School Boards impact fee collection rates just like they did for the Roads and the Parks.
These decisions have caused the School Board to lose over $40 million in badly need capital funds that could have helped to finance the seven schools that are now needed to eliminate many of their overcrowded classrooms. The County’s population growth is adding 1,800 new students each year, about the number necessary for a new school each year.
Please join us at the County Council Chambers at 9:30 a.m. on March 6th to show the Board you care about the impact this policy is having on quality of life here in Lee County.
Chair, Estero Council of Community Leaders