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Council looking to reduce city budget; Final hearing is Sept. 17

By Staff | Sep 3, 2008

Cape Coral City Council members will search for ways to cut $4.7 million from the budget when they meet today at 5:05 p.m. for a public budget hearing.

This year’s budget has been particularly difficult. The total taxable value in the Cape decreased 25 percent from last year, from $20.9 billion to $15.7 billion.

In July, council members set the millage rate at 4.768, or $4.77 for every $1,000 in taxable value. City Manager Terry Stewart had recommended a millage rate of 5.068, but now council members must find ways to pare the budget down to meet the set rate.

“It’s the tightest (budget) I’ve been a part of. It’s one of the most difficult I’ve seen,” said Councilmember Tim Day, who has been on the dais since 2000.

Day said the challenges of this year’s budget stand in stark contrast to those of recent boom times.

“Because we were in that growth pattern, the concern was finding people to do these jobs,” he said. “Now it’s how few people can we still keep services going with?”

One way the council has tried to cut expenditures is to offer buyouts to city employees. More than 200 employees opted for the buyout as of Sunday, the last day to choose the buyout option. The amount of savings the buyouts will produce may not be known for some time because the council must decide which positions to replace.

“We still have to decide what jobs can be eliminated and what cannot,” Councilmember Dolores Bertolini said.

Stewart and Financial Director Mark Mason will also be on hand to discuss the 2009 budget at the Cape Coral Council for Progress meeting at 7 a.m. Friday at the Gulf Coast Village located at 1333 Santa Barbara Blvd. The event is free for members and $15 for non-members. Call 282-2186 to RSVP.

Today’s meeting will be the penultimate public budget meeting before the council holds its last public hearing before passing the final 2009 budget Sept. 17.